Stephen Lang did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Lieutenant General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson in Gods and Generals.
It should be noted that the powerful scenes of the film tend to involve Stephen Lang as Stonewall Jackson who is one of the most important generals on the side of the confederacy. Stephen Lang creation of this man is something quite stunning from the very beginning of his performance as the famous General. The voice he uses is absolutely perfect for the role in that it is relatively quiet but holds an absolute command all the same. Lang's voice though is entirely natural, and never seems something forced in the least. He simply achieves and becomes Jackson and the voice helps in this greatly.
Lang from his first scene conveys so well the history of this character
from his first moment has he teaches students in his class. Lang shows
Jackson to be an always proper man who proceeds as one should or is
expected with the utmost respect. Lang takes a completely no nonsense
approach with his performance there is no play here in this man, rather
it is just the man who is very much to the point in almost all matters.
Lang brings to life the true nature of a man who has been a soldier all
his life and treated the job with the utmost respect.
What is very important to this performance though by Lang is that although he portrays Jackson as proper but never stiffly or dully. There is a certain warmth in his performance that is just splendid. One aspect of Jackson that Lang brings life wonderfully is his strong religious beliefs. Religious belief is commonly something shown in film actually, but usually in either some very lightweight form, or in terms of doubt, or guilt. Here Lang though shows a very unique depiction of a religious that really brings to life the strength of his faith.
Throughout the film Lang is passionate in his depiction of Jackson's religion and brings it into how it makes him the brave man he is. Jackson fears nothing on the battle field becuase of his firm belief that he will find salvation in the afterlife. Lang is absolutely genuine and moving specifically in one scene where he talks to a friend who has chosen to side with the North rather than the South. The friend remarks that perhaps they will meet again in better times or than hesitates. Jackson finishes his statement by saying In Heaven. Lang's make this moment deeply moving through the completely honest devotion he portrays in Jackson.
One of the most important aspects of Lang's performance though is of course his portrayal of the brilliant General. Lang is flawless in his depiction of the general and there is never a doubt about his abilities or power as a commander of men. In the scenes of preparation before the battles Lang carries himself particularly well through always having a quiet controlled reserve. He always conveys the intelligence of Jackson as tactician in the ease he portrays in Jackson in making the right decisions before and after each battle.
Lang never avoids portraying the fact harsh fact that Jackson is one of the lead Generals of the Confederate side, which is the enemy of the Union. Jackson at times is very harsh in his statements regarding the extent of violence needed to win against the Union. Lang is cold and frankly brutal in these moments, but shows the truth of the career soldier in Jackson. It is not that Jackson is being evil when he says that no quarter should be given, but rather experience of the man speaking. Lang is able to convey most severe ideas as not being hateful, but simply understanding what is needs to be done to win.
The best moments as the general though do probably come in his moments in which he is able to be the Jackson that truly motivated the soldiers. The moment in which he appears to earn his moniker of Stonewall, Lang actually makes absolutely believable. There is only conviction in him as he stands in the middle of fire, there is no doubt in Lang's performance that he is a Stonewall in the field. The only greater moment is his "first brigade" speech to his men. Lang holds the screen as he has the passion to bring men to follow him anywhere even into the hell of battle.
His performance really does come into its very peak after Jackson is shot by friendly fire, and slowly dies from the results of the accident. Lang is absolutely heartbreaking in his depiction of Jackson's slow death. His early moment in particular when there is hope in his eyes as he is reunited with his wife and daughter quietly showing his intense love and dedication for his family. Lang's performance brings to life the tragedy vividly in his physical decay to his final moment. Death scenes are something that many overact in but Lang's never does creating a memorable an honest portrayal of Jackson's final moments into delirium than death.
This is an incredible performance by Stephen Lang it is a shame his performance was never separated from his entirely forgotten film. His performance is a very special performance in his depiction of this important historical figure. What is so magnificent about his performance is that he succeeds in every aspect of this man. He manages to be both a man of legend in his depiction, but all the same very much always manages to bring to life the completely human qualities of the man himself. Lang never seems to be simply playing Stonewall Jackson, but honestly achieves becoming the man here in this fantastic performance.