If you are looking for an unusual holiday movie, you should check out The Crossing (2000). The film is an excellent A&E made-for-TV movie starring Jeff Daniels as George Washington. The Crossing portrays the story behind Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware River on the night after Christmas in 1776 to fight the Battle of Trenton.
While one may only pack so much information in an 89-minute movie, few holiday movies will put you on the edge of your seat like The Crossing. Director Robert Harmon does an excellent job of condensing the story to convey the drama, risk, and importance of George Washington’s decision to cross the Delaware.
Most people are familiar with the crossing because of the famous painting Washington Crossing the Delaware by artist Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze. But in watching The Crossing I was surprised by how much I did not know — or had forgotten.
Perhaps because of the painting, many think of the crossing as being near the end of the American Revolutionary War. But it occurred closer to the beginning of the war. The crossing took place less than six months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, when the war would continue until 1783. Also, the battle was not against the main British forces but against hired German Hessian forces.
The film is based on the novel of the same name by Howard Fast, and it takes some liberties for dramatic effect. But the film sets the big picture accurately. The Colonists had suffered repeated defeats at the hands of the British. And the British were expecting a quick end to the war. But Washington decided to take his weary men in a risky move. The result of his decision would gain supplies for the winter and provide a much-needed victory to inspire the Colonists and future enlistments.
While the personality of Washington remains somewhat elusive, Jeff Daniels does an excellent job portraying one of the most important people in American history. He conveys the difficult decisions encountered by the steady leader.
Even though you know how the story ends, the film will still draw you into the tense tale, seeing the men battle against the odds. The Crossing does a good job of portraying the challenges, including the cold weather and Washington’s realization that it is impossible to encounter the Hessians before daybreak.
Conclusion? While The Crossing has little Christmas cheer, it is a great way to remember an important event in American history that occurred on the night of December 25 into the morning of December 26. Watching The Crossing, one cannot help but think how American history may have gone differently — or never existed at all. What if George Washington made a different decision or if the outcome was different on that Christmas night more than two hundred years ago?
At least for now, you may watch the entire film on YouTube (in several parts, with part 1 below):
Other Reviews Because Why Should You Trust Me? Rotten Tomatoes provides no critics rating for the TV movie, but it gives a disappointing audience score of 53%. I suspect some may have had high expectations for the film and were disappointed because they expected a movie theater film on the life of George Washington. But others appreciate the film for what it is: a short dramatization of the important events over a short time period. By contrast, GJ’s Closet called The Crossing “the greatest American Revolutionary War film ever made and an ideal history lesson.” The film won a Peabody Award in 2000.
Painting photo via public domain.
What is your favorite movie set during Christmas that is not about Christmas? Leave your two cents in the comments.
(Some related Chimesfreedom posts.)