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77 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fitting tribute to Colonel R. G. Shaw and his brave men
I first saw this film right after its release on video nearly 16 years ago, and I can say in all honesty that it changed my life. Having grown up with an interest in Civil War history, this film made me realise just how little I actually knew of the period beyond what most people learn in school about this era of American History. So as the credits rolled, I wrote down...
Published on April 4, 2006 by Sally Burnell

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Glory on Blu Ray
No question that this is a 5 star movie but since I am only reviewing the quality of the transfer from SD to BluRay, the 3 stars comes from that basis. Before I discuss the actual quality of the BR disc itself, let me say that the extras on this transfer are solid 5 star material and should be shown in any and all history classes no matter what the age of the student...
Published 24 months ago by Steve Douglas

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77 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fitting tribute to Colonel R. G. Shaw and his brave men, April 4, 2006
This review is from: Glory [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I first saw this film right after its release on video nearly 16 years ago, and I can say in all honesty that it changed my life. Having grown up with an interest in Civil War history, this film made me realise just how little I actually knew of the period beyond what most people learn in school about this era of American History. So as the credits rolled, I wrote down the names of the books quoted, sought them out at the library, and it wasn't long before I began to realise that this would beg some further research. Taking the bibliography of one of the sources for this film, "One Gallant Rush" by Peter Burchard, I did my utmost to find and read as many of his sources as I could possibly get my hands on.

The result of this research has been that now I wish that the film had been truer to the actual story of what really happened. There are some obviously glaring historical inaccuracies in the film, but if you don't know the actual story as intimately as I do, it does little to detract from the fact that this is a superb film that brought to light one of the less known and more obscure aspects of Civil War history, that blacks fought in rather large numbers for the Union Army and were instrumental in turning the tide in favour of the Union in the war. In the end, nearly 200,000 blacks would fight in blue under the auspices of the United States Bureau of Coloured Troops. The 54th would keep its state regimental designation, but all the rest of the black troops were part of the USCT, the United States Coloured Troops.

Had the filmmakers stuck more rigourously to the actual history of the 54th Massachusetts, it would have been far more dramatic than what the film suggests. The 54th did not spend Christmas 1862 in camp; in point of fact, that regiment hadn't even been raised by that point. Robert Gould Shaw was still very much with the 2nd Massachusetts at that point, the regiment that he belonged to at the time that he was offered command of the 54th, by his father, in proxy for Governor Andrew, who came to visit him in winter camp in Virginia. Shaw at first refused, because he'd fought and bled beside his brethren of the 2nd and felt a strong bond with these men after what they had been through - Antietam, Cedar Mountain, Winchester. Shaw had been twice wounded in these engagements, though not badly. He did not wish to leave this regiment and command a coloured troop. He also fought his own personal prejudices over the idea of the Union raising black troops. After some deep thought for a few days, he changed his mind, however, and decided to take this enormous risk of his military career.

The 54th was not made up of escaped slaves as was portrayed in the film. The character of Corporal Thomas Searles (Andre Braugher) is closer to the kind of man who would have fought in the 54th - educated, free, literate. Men in this regiment came from as far away as Canada to enlist in the 54th. In fact, the town that sent the single largest number of men to the 54th was not one in Massachusetts, but then considered radical Oberlin, Ohio. John Mercer Langston, whose famous descendent would be the black poet Langston Hughes, recruited for the 54th Massachusetts in Ohio and was responsible for Oberlin sending so many free black men to fight in that regiment. It might have been interesting to show the variety of free black men who volunteered to fight in this regiment and the kinds of professions that they left behind, from farmer to cabinet maker to sailor to teamster and beyond. However, I suppose having characters who were escaped slaves such as Jupiter Sharts (Jihmi Kennedy), Trip (Denzel Washington) and John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman) and contrasting them with Searles made for an interesting story.

The real Robert Gould Shaw was a far more complicated character than the one that Matthew Broderick brought to the screen. I must commend his portrayal, though. He has generally made a reputation for playing either light comic or wise-ass characters, and he showed remarkable depth and pathos in playing this vaguely tragic character. His soulful eyes regularly reflected the horrors of war and he seemed to have that same haunted, far away look that photographs of the real Robert Gould Shaw seem to have, as if all along he knew that he would not survive the war to come home to his loved ones. His uncanny resemblance to the real Shaw also helped and I have to wonder if he was drafted to play the part after the director saw the pictures of the real Shaw or whether he decided to play that part himself as a break from his usual comic work. Either way, I commend his performance and wonder why he hasn't done other dramatic work in the same vein as this film.

This film is a fitting tribute to both the reluctant hero Robert Gould Shaw and to the brave black men who fought under him, fighting prejudice and skepticism with bravery and honour. It is a good thing that this film was made and that this story was resurrected from certain obscurity. It is my hope that history classes in schools are now showing this lesser known side of Civil War history and that not all blacks were slaves awaiting liberation by the Union with 40 acres and a mule. This film, as I mentioned at the beginning of the review, changed my life, and it is my hope that it will change others as well. It is a powerful story well acted by the entire cast with a five hankie ending that will leave a real lump in your throat. If you aren't crying by the time the film closes, you are far harder hearted than I am. I highly recommend seeing this film. It is one I never tire of seeing over and over again.

And just to end this review, I will add some recommended reading if you are interested in following up on this film once you've seen it and want to know more. "Blue Eyed Child of Fortune", ed. by Russell Duncan, is a collection of Colonel Shaw's letters home to loved ones. A fascinating read, to hear Shaw speak with his own voice on his Civil War experiences with both the 2nd Massachusetts and the 54th Massachusetts regiments. Follow that up with Duncan's biography of Shaw, "Where Death and Glory Meet". You might also want to read the book that partly inspired the film, Peter Burchard's "One Gallant Rush". If you want to hear the voices of Shaw's soldiers, read Capt. Luis F. Emilio's regimental memoir of the 54th, "A Brave Black Regiment". A young seaman from New Bedford, Massachusetts, Cpl. James Henry Gooding wrote letters that became the book, "On the Altar of Freedom". He fought in Company C of the 54th, was gravely wounded at the Battle of Olustee, Florida, was captured by the Confederacy, sent to Andersonville, where he died of his wounds. Sgt. George E. Stephens of Company B wrote letters that became the book, "A Voice of Thunder". Stephens would end his war as a 1st Lieutenant, an officer in the 54th. "A Grand Army of Black Men" contains some letters from members of the 54th as well. All of these books are highly recommended reading if you want to get to know the members of this historic regiment through hearing their own voices speak of their experiences.
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75 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GLORY ... Hallelujah!, December 20, 1999
J. Michael Click (Pineville, Missouri, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Glory (DVD)
Here's one of those rare movies that succeeds as both a sweeping, visually sumptuous historical epic AND an intimate, character-driven personal drama. This fact-based account of the first black regiment to fight for the Union in the Civil War is filled with scenes of grand pageantry: the bloody battle at Antietam Creek; the first assembly of the 54th Regiment; the proud parade of the finally-trained and uniformed soldiers; the climactic attack on Fort Wagner. And yet despite these heart-pounding, majestic sequences, the film at no time loses its focus on the individual characters whose stories provide an emotional connection to the action. The performances of the once-in-a-lifetime cast are uniformly superb: Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, and Andre Braugher are all at the top of their game, and Denzel Washington (who deservedly won the Supporting Actor Oscar) is amazing, especially in the scene in which he undergoes a bitterly harsh punishment. The dozens of emotions that flicker across Washington's face in that sequence, wordlessly conveying his character's essence, represent a powerful economy of acting that is rarely achieved in any medium.

Happily, the DVD transfer of this cinematic masterpiece is exceptional. The Oscar-winning Cinematography and Sound are beautifully showcased, putting the viewer right in the middle of the story. (You'll understand Francis Scott Key's line about "the rockets' red glare" on a level you never before imagined!) And James Horner's soaring, elegant musical score is a revelation. This absorbing film makes for a phenomenal DVD experience!

BLU-RAY UPDATE: My original review was based on the first, single-disc DVD edition of "Glory". At the time, I lamented the lack of special bonus features that I felt would have enhanced viewers' understanding and enjoyment of the film. A few years later, a 2 Disc DVD of the film was released, which contained a wealth of bonus materials. I upgraded, and was very happy with the 2 disc edition.

I recently upgraded again, to the 2009 Sony Blu-Ray release, and am happy to report that the film looks and sounds better than ever. Comparing it to the previous Laser-Disc and DVD editions, I can honestly say that the Blu-Ray package is worth the additional expense, if you're as big a fan of the movie as I am. Several of the bonus features from the 2-Disc Special Edition DVD have been retained, and there's also an impressive Virtual Civil War Interactive Battlefield Map exclusive to the Blu-Ray. Very highly recommended!
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Give 'em hell, 54th!", December 12, 2002
This review is from: Glory [VHS] (VHS Tape)
That line, uttered by an obscure character, a white Union soldier watching the Massachusetts 54th Infantry prepare to assault a heavily-fortified Confederate fort, signifies the acceptance of the Union Army's first all-black regiment. GLORY, director Edward Zwick's Civil War masterpiece, shows us the evolution of the 54th, from a ragtag group of former slaves and freemen--a group under supplied, underpaid, and initially used for manual labor and looting--to an efficient fighting machine.
Like many other reviewers, I was pleasantly surprised by Matthew Broderick's portrayal as Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the young, idealistic leader of the 54th. Broderick gives this character depth, compassion, credibility, and yes, maturity. And what else can be said about the supporting cast, including Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, and Cary Elwes, other than "exceptional?"
GLORY is profound entertainment: gripping, violent, raw, and emotional as the fragile subject of race--of racism--is brought to the forefront. It is a story that is as timeless as it is transcendent.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Give 'em Hell fifty-fourth!", February 7, 2005
D. Knouse (vancouver, washington United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Glory (Special Edition) (DVD)
This is the kind of film that is very rare: an historically important creation where everything works. The writing is excellent, the acting is superb, the cinematography is outstanding, the scope is epic with a phenomenal score that courses through the movie lending it amazing depth of emotion. This film is flawless and filled to the brim with interesting characters and historical significance. There are many fine acting performances here, the lead actors shining on several occasions. Matthew Broderick has the performance in his career that finally shed that "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" stigma and established him as an A-list actor capable of carrying a dramatic role as well as sustaining comedy. Denzel Washington is mesmerizing to watch, owning each and every scene he is in and completely earning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Cary Elwes, fresh from his enthusiastic performance in the 1987 classic "The Princess Bride," also shows some dramatic chops as surprising as Matthew Broderick brings to the table. Then there is Morgan Freeman, who is the pride and center of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts, and his performance sparkles accordingly. There are so many great performances in this film that I could write for pages describing them all. Of course, there are the incredible battle scenes, as well. They are brilliantly staged, from long-range battle tactics to hand-to-hand combat with muskets fixed with bayonettes. The intensity is realistic and exciting and oftentimes chilling. At the time I saw this film in the theater back in 1989 I considered it the best Civil War film ever made. In my mind, it has yet to be surpassed. "Glory" is exceptional filmmaking on every level and should find a home in every DVD collection. Highly recommended.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blu-ray: Wonderful on Blu-ray. Missing the picture-in-picture commentary from the DVD version but overall fantastic!, June 11, 2009
This review is from: Glory [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
In 1989, "GLORY" would become an important movie that introduced many Americans unfamiliar to Civil War history but most of all, to show viewers the impact African Americans had in the role of fighting for the Union.

The film would focus on Col. Robert Gould Shaw, the letters he sent to his family and him leading a group of African American men who volunteered to fight against the Confederate Army. This group is known as the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The film is also adapted from Lincoln Kirstein's book "Lay this Laurel" and Peter Burchard's book "One Gallant Rush".

"GLORY" was directed by Edward Zwick ("DEFIANCE", "Blood Diamond", "The Last Samurai" and "The Siege"), screenplay by Kevin Jarre ("The Mummy"and "Rambo: First Blood Part II"), music by James Horner "Enemy at the Gates", "A Beautiful Mind" and "Troy") and cinematography by Freddie Francis ("Dune", "Clara's Heart" and "Cape Fear").

The film would star major talents Matthew Broderick ("WarGames", "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", "Godzilla" and "Inspector Gadget"), Denzel Washington ("American Gangster", "Training Day", "Man on Fire" and "Remember the Titans"), Morgan Freeman ("The Dark Knight", "Wanted", "Million Dollar Baby" and "Deep Impact"), Cary Elwes ("The Princess Bride", "Twister", "Liar Liar" and "Days of Thunder") and Andre Braugher ("Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer", "Poseidon", "Frequency" and "Primal Fear").

The film would receive five Academy Award nominations and win three for "Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Denzel Washington", "Best Cinematography - Freddie Francis" and "Best Sound Mixing".

"GLORY" is powerful!


"GLORY" is presented on 1080p High Definition (aspect ratio of 1:85:1). The film manages to capture the haziness of war due to the smoke in the battlefield and the colors are not featured as vibrant as most of the settings are in blues and browns but you will see reds on the flag and the flares, amber colors from the gunfire and the greens of the grass and tress, but I believe that the limit of color was the Director Edward Zwick's purpose. Zwick is director that has made several films to capture the dreariness of war as he did nearly a decade later with "ENEMY AT THE GATES", he manages to capture the look of the battlefield in 1989 with "GLORY".

The film does have quite a bit of grain that comes clear due to its High Definition transfer but I would rather have grain than overly used digital noise reduction that would make the characters look waxy and the picture quality as soft. In fact, one thing you will notice with "GLORY" is you see quite a bit of detail of the actors, their surroundings but also objects such as shovels, rifles, clothing, etc. But overall, the picture quality is solid.

As for the audio, the film is featured in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (also in French, Portuguese in Dolby True HD 5.1 and Spanish 5.1) and the lossless soundtrack manages to capture the many explosions on the battlefield. But what captures your attention when it comes to sound is James Horner's musical score. The music sets the tone of the film especially during the final battle. Dialogue is clear and very clean and many of the scenes during the battles where artillery, gun fire and people yelling (even those yelling from a far distance) can be heard. There were scenes that do utilize the rear channels effectively and I believe there were some scenes where explosions took advantage of some low frequency booms on the subwoofer. Overall, "GLORY" receives its best audio presentation compared to its original DVD counterpart.

As for subtitles, the film is presented in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish.


"GLORY" comes with the following special features:

* Audio Commentary by Director Edward Zwick - Edward Zwick is known for his war films from "GLORY", "Enemy at the Gates" and "The Last Samurai" and one thing that I enjoy about his commentaries is that he really gets into the technical goals and explain the difficult scenes. "GLORY" features just that as he really goes into detail of the filming techniques used on the film. Such as trying to drown out the blue skies with smoke, working with the talent, the staff, James Horner for the music and tidbits such as not having enough money to hire more stuntmen, so the stuntmen trained the extras on several scenes. Also, how challenging it was for Morgan Freeman to have to run countless times especially uphill to having horses that were trained to fall. A very informative commentary.
* Virtual Battlefield - Civil War Guide Map - This was actually pretty good. By using your remote, you can learn about certain battles from the Civil War with photography and text information. But some have video commentary by Civil War historians which was quite informative.
* The Voices of Glory - (11:16) This features letters from the Civil War written by actual soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and giving a voice to the men who fought in the various battles including the battle at Fort Wagner. Featured in Standard Definition.
* Documentary: The True Story of Glory Continues Narrated by Morgan Freeman - (45:18) A documentary featuring the factual information of the soldiers that fought during the war and were members of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry with additional detail on Col. Robert Gould Shaw. Also, the coverage on the Civil War re-enactments that are ongoing today and an actual re-burial of soldiers. A documentary that is very informative and you learn about other names that were instrumental during the battle against the Confederate Army at Fort Wagner. Featured in Standard Definition.
* Original Theatrical Making-of Featurette - (7:35) Featured in Standard Definition, this is the original featurette with interviews with the talent and Director Edward Zwick. The featurette has a few behind-the-scenes footage from the film.
* Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary - There is commentary by Director Edward Zwick on two scenes. For The Applepicker (3:03), a scene which revolves around Pvt. Trip making his first kill. The second and final deleted scene is one that Zwick calls one of his worst and glad it was cut from the film. The scene is titled "Crisis of Conscience" (2:35) which is a scene involving both Col. Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) and Major Cabot Forbes (Cary Elwes).

For those who owned the two-disc special edition DVD release of "GLORY", you may not want to ditch your DVD just yet as the "Picture-in-Picture Video Commentary featuring Ed Zwick, Morgan Freeman & Matthew Broderick" is not included on this Blu-ray disc. Nor are the scene selections on the Blu-ray sporting any motion.


"GLORY" is a powerful war film that shows an epic depiction of the battles that have taken place at that time. Powerful performances from Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington and Andre Braugher, I was in awe of how epicly enormous this film was from start to finish.

I really enjoyed "GLORY" for its storyline but also being educated about a part of Civil War that many people are probably not familiar with.

In fact, Director Edward Zwick talked about in the commentary of going to Harvard University and living in Boston and never knowing the significance of the Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment on the Boston Common. And how he felt that this film not only was a positive for the people who worked on the film, great for his career but mostly for how significant the film is used by teachers using "Glory" as a tool to teach about the Civil War.

The film definitely made me interested in learning more about the war but also key figures which include Colonel Shaw and American abolitionist Frederick Douglass. But the film also opened my eyes at the time of how soldier placement truly was. This is very interesting because these people stood probably less than a hundred yards from each other before they shot at each other. Where forts had the use of cannonballs and artillery for long distance destruction, foot soldiers were just really close to each other and had to constantly reload their rifles. And watching the final battle and in a way, oncoming military groups were like sitting ducks. The military tactics of the time made me realize why the Civil War had the most number of deaths compared to Americans killed in World War I, II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined.

Of course, the film and the actual history have some differences and its important to note that the only major character from the film's regiment that truly existed was Col. Robert Gould Shaw but the challenges that the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry faced during that time was quite real. The combat role that African-Americans played in Civil War very much real. The factual events, especially details that have come out right after the film was released is documented on "The True Story Continues" documentary which is included on the Blu-ray.

Again, for those who own the 2-disc DVD Special Edition released back in 2007 and wonder if its worth the double dip. For picture and audio quality, my answer is yes but I highly recommend not to get rid of the DVD as the "Picture-in-Picture Video Commentary featuring Ed Zwick, Morgan Freeman & Matthew Broderick" is not included on this Blu-ray release. Personally, I think people would have loved to hear insight from both Freeman and Broderick about working on this film. So, I'm a bit surprised it was not included on this Blu-ray release.

But nevertheless, "GLORY" is still a solid Blu-ray release. The HD transfer definitely gives the viewer more detail and makes the battlefield come alive. It's a powerful film and definitely worth owning and having in your Blu-ray collection.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They were soldiers, July 11, 2006
This review is from: Glory (DVD)
Glory is a truly extraordinary motion picture in all sorts of ways. As a proud Southerner, I have to say no other film has ever had me cheering for a Union regiment taking on a company of Confederate soldiers. I was a little worried that this film would demonize the South, but it proved to be a most even-handed treatment of all parties. By demonstrating the racism of Northerners - soldiers and civilians alike - it paints a most nuanced portrait of the African-American men who seized the opportunity to don the blue uniforms and fight for a country many of them must have been unable to truly call their own. That only makes their heroism and bravery all the more poignant. The War Between the States can never be understood in simple black and white terms on any level, as many a Union soldier clearly wasn't fighting to emancipate the slaves (just as many a Rebel soldier wasn't fighting for slavery).

Even when they actually used to teach actual history in the schools, the story of the 54th Massachusetts regiment was a subject that never really came up - and that is what gives Glory such an extraordinary amount of historical importance. I wouldn't go so far as to say the heroism and sacrifice of this first African-American regiment in the Union army turned the tide in the War, but it did lead to the acceptance of actual black fighting soldiers in the Union ranks - and 210,000 such recruits certainly proved important for a fighting force that basically won through strength of numbers (as more blues than grays died in the war).

The movie itself, though, is really about the men who led and made up the 54th Massachusetts regiment - and there are sterling performances all over the place. As I have said many times in the past, Morgan Freeman is the best actor living today, and his character, Sgt. Major John Rawlins, is really the heart and soul of the whole film. As an older, runaway slave, he has gained a measure of wisdom and restraint that Private Trip (Denzel Washington) has never even imagined. Trip wears the scars on his back proudly, and he is not about to stand down before any man. Washington earned a Best Supporting Actor award for his role, and rightly so. Educated freemen are represented by Thomas Searles (Andre Braugher), who seems ill-suited to the harsh realities of war but shoulders the burden with pride and determination. At the head of these men rides Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), a young officer who secured the position more by family influence than merit, perhaps, but he more than rises to the challenge to fight both for and with his men. Despite his lifelong friendship with Thomas, he has almost no connection with the men of the 54th and must learn to know them and earn their respect. The Union army doesn't even want to supply his men with necessities such as decent shoes and a uniform, nor does it really have any intention of actually sending them into combat. Thanks to the Colonel, though, the fighting men of the 54th do eventually get their chance to prove themselves by leading what is basically a suicidal charge against Fort Wagner in South Carolina.

Aside from the multi-layered story itself, one must be impressed by the realism of the action. War is an ugly business, and that fact is brought home in the very first scenes showing Colonel Shaw's charge during the Battle of Antietam. While there should have been small rivers of blood covering the battlefield, watching a soldier's head basically explode makes for a vivid stamp of realism. While I would question the tactics employed on the assault on Fort Wayne at the end, the movie certainly does capture the nature of the fog of war and the viciousness of hand-to-hand fighting by heroes on both sides. Of course, this is a movie, so there are numerous historical inaccuracies as to the main characters (none of whom, other than Col. Shaw, are based on the actual soldiers) and battles, yet Glory certainly does succeed in telling the story of the 54th Regiment in the most compelling of ways.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glory for Glory, May 31, 2003
This review is from: Glory (Special Edition) (DVD)
History fills our shelves and files, and yet so much fails to reach us. Sometimes it takes a realm of fiction to bring that history to the masses. Director Edward Zwick's *Glory* not only revealed a small piece of history to 1980's America, but turned out to be a top-notch story. Tri Star's Special Edition DVD of *Glory* brings this well-made drama to current audiences.
Story of *Glory*
*Glory* concerns the origin of the 54th Massachusetts: a black regiment formed early in the American Civil War. Based on history books and personal letters, Glory shows how the 54th was authorized initially to placate abolitionist groups. It follows Colonel Robert Gould Shaw as he turns this symbol into a genuine fighting force. Rampant racism in the Union Army obstructs the 54th, as they are denied the equipment, pay, and experience to prove itself. But our heroes fight back, beating the corrupt Army at its own game. Likewise, all of the main characters must overcome their differences and their own internal demons. *Glory* concludes with the bloody assault on Fort Wagner. A military failure, it succeeded on a political, social, and personal front.
Special Edition
Both this DVD edition and the special edition VHS contain "The True Story of *Glory* Continues", a documentary narrated by Morgan Freeman. The DVD set also contains an additional supplementary short on letters written by members of the 54th. These documentaries provide the actual history behind the 54th Massachusetts, since *Glory* itself takes plenty of artistic liberties. Zwick explains his two deleted scenes, arguing they were redundant. Tri Star also provides a theatrical trailer for three films featuring Denzel Washington. *Glory's* image quality is good, but like most films, it has that annoying tendency to drop down the sound of battle, even when no one is talking. I shoot guns and I know how loud they can be; I want to hear those longarms crack!
The Heart of It All
While Zwick's battle scenes mark the film, he is clearly more interested in the human drama set against the backdrop of history. He says as much in the commentary, and he shows it. Denzel Washington's character Trip is a cynic and a bully, who keeps himself and everybody down with racist language. He particularly targets Thomas, an educated freeman and family friend of Colonel Shaw, who has difficulty relating to his fellow soldiers. Sergeant Rawlins stands between these men; and he finds himself caught between the enlisted men and their officers (who don't always have the right solutions to the regiment's problems).
Colonel Shaw in particular demonstrates the problems of the combat leader, and both the director and Matthew Broderick bring depth to his character. Much of the time, his character is confident, talented, and brave. But behind his bravado lurks a traumatized combat veteran, driven to prepare his regiment for the horror of rifled muskets, repeating pistols, and high-explosive shells. After the battle of Antietam Creek, loud noises make Shaw jump, and he suffers from flashbacks of a fellow captain's grisly death. When his character is promoted from Captain to Colonel, the audience can see the doubt in Broderick's face. Consequently, Shaw brutalizes his men in basic training, employing a particularly harsh Sergeant Major to prepare them. Soon, even his officers grow to resent Shaw.
These details stand in contrast to films like director Randall Wallace's *We Were Soldiers* (2002), another major effort to bring dignity to a little-known piece of American history. Mel Gibson's characterization of Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore is so unflappable as to be unbelievable. He comes across as having conquered his demons, fearing only that he is leading his men into a massacre. Moore's men are pluralistic and loyal, with no interpersonal conflict. While the 54th must fight tooth and nail simply to get shoes, the 3/7 Air Cav has everything already handed to it. Ultimately, Moore's victory gave way to America's failure in Vietnam, whereas the 54th's defeat paved the way for an American victory. So while these two films might have a similar idea, *Glory* presents a sense of depth and achievement absent from *We Were Soldiers*.
True, both groups of soldiers must grow. But Zwick takes his characters from nothing to something, whereas Wallace presents a troop with everything but their first blood. This is not to say that *Soldiers* doesn't please, but that it appeals on a completely different level than *Glory*.
*Glory*, then, exemplifies classic story telling. Much of this can be attributed to the editing and cinematography. Zwick and photography director Freddy Francis indulge in plenty of dramatic camera movements, using then-new cranes and cradles. But Zwick minimizes the depiction of blood, and quick-cuts violence. This actually lets him pack multiple incidents in his battle scenes, and his battles arouse a chaos other films fail to achieve. Francis continues this trend by maximizing the extras, props, and set seen in frame. The directors and editors also make the most of the actors' facial expressions and body language, helping Denzel Washington to walk away with that Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Zwick and Francis even use the sun and the sky to set mood. When Shaw is optimistic in the first minute of the film, the sun is bright and clear; but when Shaw marches into his first battle at Antietam, the filmmakers show the sun obstructed by black smoke. Gray and fog cover the skies all the way until the last act, when the sun shines bright and clear again.
In the end, *Glory* satisfies. The film's payoff comes from its theme and its telling. The characters overcome different obstacles to achieve human dignity. *Glory* uses the American Civil War to demonstrate that if men are created equal, they die equal. And if humans are born alike and die alike, little excuse exists for the inequity in between.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Civil War movie, ever . . ., January 11, 2001
This review is from: Glory (Special Edition) (DVD)
probably because it tells such a unique story. *Glory* traces the fortunes of the first African-American regiment in the history of the U.S. military, and as such should be an eye-opener for those who picture the Civil War as mainly old daguerrotypes of bearded generals chomping cigars a la Grant or Lee. It's also an important reminder of what the war was, when you get down to it, really about: the bid for Black freedom. By telling the story of the Massachusetts 54th, director Edward Zwick finds a natural and compelling focus of our nation's greatest conflict.
Zwick takes some mighty risks, courting the mawkish. Several scenes stand out as breathtaking, all the more so because they could have been (and typically are) so badly executed: the scene where Matthew Broderick's Colonel Shaw stands watching, aghast, as his new recruits receive their first Government-issue rifles, acting as if they're about to go on a grand hunting-party, knowing nothing of the horrors that await them . . . another scene late in the film when the 54th are about to take a beach-side fort in the Carolinas, where the camera massively sweeps the fort itself, the surrounding geography, the massing troops straining at the slip (the ensuing charge is THRILLING) . . . the scene where the 54th enters the South (a return trip for most), encountering along the way a group of African-American children whose awe at seeing Black men in uniform provides one of the finest depictions of "hope" I've ever seen in cinema . . . the arguably "centerpiece" scene midway through, where Colonel Shaw and Denzel Washington's angry Private Trip enact, in a matter of a few heartbreaking cinematic moments, the entire basis of the causes of the Civil War as well as of our ongoing troubles (the defiance with which Trip rips off his tattered shirt, almost proudly revealing the many quirt-scars on his back, is also THRILLING) . . . and perhaps my favorite scene, just before the attack on the fort, where Colonel Shaw, alone on the beach, frees his horse, watches the gulls fly seaward, and, knowing full well he and most of his troops won't survive the attack, says farewell to the sky, the sea, the earth, and his own life. The notion, of course, being that it just might be a glorious thing to give one's life for a cause that is greater than that life. Now that's an old-fashioned notion, ridiculed by the cynics who (understandably) have been disillusioned by the recent examples of our Vietnam and Kuwait adventures, but then the events portrayed in *Glory* happened in old-fashioned times. Old-fashioned or not, men like Colonel Shaw, Privates Trip and Rawlins, by giving their lives fighting a war that had to be won so that we could all be free, "so that all can speak", are what made this nation the greatest in the world, and are heroes we can point to with solemn and real patriotic pride. *Glory* is a masterpiece.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A film not only about the war, but the men fighting it, June 28, 2000
Sara (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Glory [VHS] (VHS Tape)
We watched this movie for school, it was an edited version, and I later rented the full on one. Though there's not much difference between the two except cutting out a rather grisly scene, you still get the whole idea. This film is definately one to see, even if you're not a fan of war movies. The story of the African-American 54th regiment is extrememely well written, acted, and well you get the idea. Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, and Cary Elwes give stunning performances as either leaders of the regiment or the regiment. I must say that I was on end throughout the whole movie. There I was sitting in the classroom and I looked up and realized I was the only one crying. Embarrassing? Yes. But you can't help but get involved in a story like this! These men put others lives before theirs for the honor of their country! This movie was brilliant, moving, and rather accurate as far I can tell. A must see, especially if you're a history fan!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the most inspirational picture ever made, April 9, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Glory [VHS] (VHS Tape)
just one of the most moving, inspirational films I've ever seen. With outstanding performances among the key players, morgan freeman telling wide eyed black children down south that he left a run away slave and came back a fighting man, that it is now the year of jubilee, gods kingdom on earth, the shoe scene when the broderick character finally gets as indignant at the poor treatment his regiment receives as they do, the singing session before the big battle (beautiful beyond words) and the prayers and chorus of the soliders (I was in bondage and now I walk tall, I stand up, I feel like a man) to encapsulate morgan freemans speech and washingtons.And of course the ending, so heroic, so filled with power and glory and might and strength and courage, with denzel taking the flag and his enemy snowflake offering to pick it up if he falls. Going to certain death here on earth but walking into heaven, knowing they fought the good fight, they stayed the course, and they gave their lives for something greater than themselves, freedom from oppression and the ability (not to trivialize) to feel equal to the next person. Anybody low in spirits should watch this film, it will lift you up. And the score is so beautiful, its like listening to a religious hymn all the way through. I finally bought the soundtrack I loved it so much. Definately a must see.
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Glory by Edward Zwick (DVD - 1998)
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