Movie Details
Recommendation

Glory (1989)

 
 
 

Freeman Fights for Washington's Glory

If you men will take no pay, then none of us will - Colonel Shaw

Denzel Washington as Private Trip in the whipping scene in Glory

"Glory" is one impressive movie, it tells an important historical story about black men fighting in the American Civil War, it is well acted so much so that it isn't a movie about any of its stars and the whole thing draws you in as the story works it way to a pivotal battle in the history of America. As such I would say that "Glory" is more than impressive it is in fact great but here is the thing, it is a movie about a period in America's history and not being an American the importance of this story doesn't resonate as strongly with me as if I was an American. And because of this "Glory" whilst a great movie, one which entertained from start to finish was for me just a great movie and not something more important and personal.

Having returned home to recuperate from minor injuries sustained in battle, Col. Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick - Ferris Bueller's Day Off) accepts the opportunity to take control of the first regiment solely made up of black soldiers. Along with his friend Major Cabot Forbes (Cary Elwes - The Princess Bride) they set about knocking these men made up of ex slaves and freemen into a fighting force, but constantly come across old prejudices as no one believes these men will ever be allowed to fight. Through gritted determination Shaw fights for his men's rights not only to be treated like soldiers and dressed like soldiers but also to be given the chance to fight rather than treated like a work force. And so they head off into battle, a bloody battle which will change the face of the Army forever as it would lead to more black men being allowed to sign up to fight.

Matthew Broderick and Cary Elwes in Glory

So as already mentioned "Glory" is a historical movie and is about the contribution which black men made in the American Civil War an aspect of the war which is often over looked. It goes about showing us how it came to be that Col. Robert Gould Shaw found himself in charge of the first official regiment of black troops, a diverse mix of freemen and ex slaves and the issues which he encountered. So we watch as he tries to knock these men into an effective fighting force whilst battling ancient prejudices as his superiors treated them differently especially in the fact that no one believed that they could work as a regiment. As such "Glory" is littered with powerful scenes as the history of the black man, their slavery is shown as well as they were being paid less to do the same job as the white man. But at the same time it shows these men bonding, not just the regiment of black men but also Shaw and Maj. Cabot Forbes who assists him in leading this regiment.

All of this builds as tensions brews with Shaw fighting for the rights of his men to be treated as equals and allowed to fight instead of being treated like a work force. This leads up to a bloody battle where through the regiment fighting as a team, following orders and putting their lives on the line lead to a major influx of black men being enlisted. It is all very poignant even for someone who isn't an American and the importance of this regiment and what they did is very clear to see. And as such it is a very powerful storyline, one which draws you in from the start and keeps you there right up till the credits start to roll.

What is great about "Glory" is that whilst the story is compelling and it is littered with many memorable scenes, some poignant such as Trip played by Denzel Washington getting whipped and some just action filled the performances from it's numerous stars do not end up making the movie all about them. So whilst you have Matthew Broderick on brilliant form as Col. Robert Gould Shaw and some exquisite performances from Denzel Washington as Pvt. Trip, Morgan Freeman as Sgt. Maj. John Rawlins and Andre Braugher as Cpl. Thomas Searles none of them are bigger than the story. And as such it ends up a case of not watching Broderick, Washington or Freeman act but watching their characters, what they go through and what it meant to them to be part of the regiment drawing you into every second and every emotion of their story. As such, and I don't use this often, but every single performance from the main actors is stunning because they tell a story rather than just act it out.

What this all boils down to is that "Glory" is a stunning movie, a great movie which recreates a period of history in a very gripping way mixing period drama with action and occasional humour without ever becoming stuffy. There is little if anything wrong with the movie with some of the best performances I have seen. And whilst the importance of the events have less meaning for someone who isn't an American the importance of them still come across without resorting to heavy handed tactics.

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