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VINE VOICEon May 21, 2001
that Edward Zwick directed one of the top 10 films of the '80's. Ignored for the "big" Academy awards, the film has become a classic on VHS and DVD. This version allows the watcher to view in either widescreen or full screen. Each CD has different special features and all are laudable. I especially enjoyed the feature with Morgan Freeman narrarating the related documentary.
All the effects of war demonstrated by Spielberg in "Private Ryan" are covered in realistic detail at the time of the Civil War. The tale is of the 54th - a division of the Union army, staffed, through political pressure of the day, with Negro soldiers and white officers. The complexity of emancipation is demonstrated throughout the division, in gathering Negroes from all walks of life. Andre Braugher is unforgettable as Thomas, a second generation "free man", well educated, and completely unfamiliar and uncomfortable with his fellow black men. Newly freed slaves mingle and learn with black men who have been outside the yoke of slavery for many years. The parochialism of even the abolitionists when it comes to understanding the rich texture of the Negro experience in the 19th century is vested in the officers of the regiment.
Denzel Washington took home the only major Oscar, for best supporting actor. His role can be best described by viewing the two most powerful scenes in the movie - his punishment at the hands of the white colonel, and his leadership in the "paycheck" rebellion. Braugher, Washington & Freeman have all reaped rewards in 90's film and TV by virtue of their strong performances here. Matthew Broderick lets you know that he is not only a gifted comedic actor, but a believable hero in a lead dramatic role.
The music is brilliant. It soars above the commonplace scenes of soldiers' lives and the battleground clashes as though it was always there.
It is difficult to define the impact this film had on me, and why I regard it with such esteem. I only know that I return to it every 18 months or so, to view what is a truly satisfying experience in filmmaking.
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on March 28, 2010
This is one of my favorite movies. After some very good reviews elsewhere about the blu-ray edition, I purchased it. After comparing it to my upconverted standard DVD version, I was hoping for a large improvement in the picture and sound. It is an improvement, but not worth the upgrade to Blu-ray.
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on August 4, 2016
The fidelity to actual history is good but not great. Until Shaw, played by Broderick, and his men got to near the end with 2 intense battles, I didn't like Shaw much. I don't know whether a Black soldier (in the movie, Trip played by Denzel Washington) actually left his post briefly, mainly to get shoes and better food, and then was flogged at least 16 lashes by a strong Irish-American With Shaw's approval--even after Trip took his shirt off, revealing a large number of scars from past whippings. After researching punishment for desertion during the Civil War, I found that desertion was common on both the Union and the Confederate side. About 1 in 5 soldiers on the Union side deserted and about 1 in 3 on the Rebel side. So common that in many cases, there was no corporal punishment, and instead often positive incentives were offered to draw them back. If Shaw actually allowed this poor former slave to be so flogged for not doing any violence but merely getting better biscuits willingly given and shoes, then I highly condemn Shaw. Haven't yet found whether that really happened.
When Glory finally shows the 54th Regiment being allowed to fight the Graycoats after not being allowed to by the higher ups, then the efficient and brave conduct of the Black soldiers--in good part due to Shaw's hard training of them, as well as his personal prowess with pistol and sword and his courage--led me to have a major change of heart about Shaw and even the brutal Irish sergeant. His unusual leading of the final charge on Fort Wagner, rather than what a Colonel would normally do--not be at the very front, demonstrated real courage, and I was moved. Lastly, I want to add that the X-Ray side blurbs from Amazon video are usually correct and informative, but they are sometimes wrong. The X-Ray comment accompanying the charge against Fort Wagner incorrectly said this was at James Island. The battle of James Island was actually 2 days earlier, on July 16.
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on December 4, 2015
A most wonderful movie that moves along with the daily lives of the first black volunteers and their officers who fought in the Civil War. This also covers some of the prejudices they suffered with both those whose side they were fighting with and also their enemies. The subject matter is so relevant.

At the beginning I was a bit annoyed with Matthew Broderick's doe eyed responses as Col. Robert Shaw, upon whose letters that were sent to his mother are what this movie is based on. By the end of the movie, I was definitely hooked with those doe eyes.

I can never say enough about how much I always enjoy Morgan Freeman along with Denzel Washington's acting and, in this movie, the soldiers they portray.

The battle scenes throw you into the madness as your neighbors and comrades perish, but you are still alive and breathing to fight the next battle with them.

Next to Saving Private Ryan, this is a must watch movie for those history buffs that ends up throwing you right into the chaos of war. I had this movie marked as one to watch for a long time and am sorry that I did not end up watching it sooner.

It is more than worthy of your time to reflect on these heroes and the difficulties they went through in their short lives. Do yourself a favor and add this movie to your collection.

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on September 10, 2015
This was, and still is, one of my favorite all-time Civil War movies. It's one of the few that I've kept upgrading over the years, from when it first came out on VHS to the first time on DVD to getting it now in Blu Ray. I didn't know as much about Col. Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts back then as I do now, but after all these years, it's still a good movie to watch and enjoy, in spite of its many historical inaccuracies. I love it for the story and action sequences, and the picture and sound quality in Blu Ray just makes it all the better. Sure, it has its share of inaccuracies, but what Civil War period movie doesn't? If you're buying this to learn about the history of the 54th Mass. infantry, I'd say it's a good place to start but keep in mind you won't get the accurate history of the regiment. For that I'd highly recommend the books Lay This Laurel, Blue Eyed Child of Fortune, and A Brave Black Regiment--the official history of the 54th. If you're looking for a good, entertaining period piece about the Civil War, this is one of the better ones. I actually watch this more now because of its upgrade to Blu Ray, and it's a lot less Hollywood than the movie Gettysburg is
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on July 18, 2015
Great movie! Everyone gushes about the acting jobs Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman did, but most surprising is the job Matthew Broderick put in. You can really see thru his acting that his character, Robert Gould Shaw was afraid of battle,(Who could blame him?), but he pushed himself into leading his men into battle, very bravely. You could really see this in the scene before the final battle at the Fort, he looks out to sea, and you can clearly see how much he loves life, and fears to die, but he lets his horse go and goes up to the front lines to lead his troops. His bravery is unquestioned. I wish Slavery was abolished peacefully, as was done in other Western countries, I still think it could have been done in the USA, but the North was not going to compromise on the Tariff issue, which really was the source of the conflict, only later, after the War had been going for a while was emancipation an issue. This movie remains as one of my favorites.
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on March 8, 2016
I think this may be the best Civil War film yet made. Broderick is pitch perfect as an officer out of his depth, but committed, brave and true. Morgan Freeman is also on display at his grave, wise finest. Denzel steals this film. Just rips it from the other actors and chews it up like a big dog taking the bone. His anger, his sensitivity, his every moment is electric in this film.

Another important note is that this is Director Ed Zwicks second film, and it's directed with a kind of confidence and seamlessness that all his later films do so well. If you haven't seen it, do so; it's a barn burner. Great piece for kids learning their US History, brings the world of the Civil War to life.
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on July 17, 2013
Let's be clear: a lot of people are going to see this and think "it's in 4K".. no, it's not, it's still standard 1080P, they are telling you it came from a 4k master.. this should mean a better encode, but in the end, it's still coming down to the standard. This comes off a bit like how Sony would market SuperBit DVDs.

There is nothing wrong with this practice as long as you know what you are getting. That said, this is a fine transfer of a film that needed it, and a welcome addition to my blu-ray library.
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on June 21, 2015
This is a Great and essential (and historically important) Film = it should really be required viewing for anyone interested in having a better more complete understanding of all-facets of the Civil War ==> and is one of the very few movies to actually give deeper insights into the thoughts & opinions of African American soldiers - and of course highlighting the little known fact that there even existed all-black fighting units (specifically the 54th Volunteer Regiment/Infantry from Massachusetts) within the larger Union-Army, whose participation & boundless-courage might have actually contributed to 'turning-the-tide' ultimately in favor of the Union.

Edward Zwick deserves much credit for expertly directing this (he also did the great movie about Jewish partisans in WWII called "Defiance" and also "The Last Samurai" and "Blood Diamond' and the forthcoming Bobby Fischer biography "Pawn Sacrifice")

But of course it is the intensely-complex multi-layered charismatic performance by Denzel Washington as 'Trip' who agrees to serve in the Union Army under the command of the young abolitionist-leaning 'Robert Shaw' (played by Matthew Broderick) that is the center-piece of this great film. The ex-slave, now Union-soldier Trip's internal (and external) struggles are portrayed in exceedingly realistic manner, of course he will fight relentlessly to ensure that the Union defeats the segregationist-Confederates - but he is not altogether sure that a Victory will ever ensure a significantly better quality-of-Life (and true equality) for his people and bring genuine 'unity' to the entire Country (since he encounters the trappings of racism on both sides) And Morgan Freeman gives superlative-assist as the older-wiser-humane 'Sergeant Major John Rawlins'

This is an authentically super-gifted Thespian Cast = completely up to the task of telling the harrowing tale of courageous 54th Infantry Black soldiers sacrificing their very Lives fighting alongside the Union Army and taking immense casualties in the process* - with the faint hopes that winning the Civil-War will improve the quality of everyday lives for themselves and their Loved-ones and bring permanent 'unity' to the entire Nation - but as honestly portrayed in this essential-historic film, struggles against blind-racism with valiant acts of courage to regain dignity & respect - proved to be an uphill (and ongoing) battle.
An Essential Movie-Classic (if there ever was one!)

note: the valiant all-Black 54th Volunteer Infantry/regiment suffered nearly 50% casualty-rate, but their courageous acts inspired subsequently much larger participation of black soldiers in the Union Army (possibly turning the tide of the Civil-War in the Union's favor)

note2*: the incredible courage and sacrifice of the 54th Volunteer Infantry of Massachusetts made me think of the equally courageous & exceedingly valiant 100th Battalion (and 442nd) from WII comprised of all Japanese American volunteers (many of whose family-members were imprisoned in internment-camps during WWII), but who nonetheless willingly gave the ultimate sacrifice to the land in which they were born (hoping that their families would be treated as fully respected American-citizens once the War was over = there are definite parallels to both Essential historical-factual stories that shouldn't be forgotten)
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on July 20, 2015
An essential film to see especially if you've been curious about the role of African-Americans during the civil war. Whether it's an exact historical representation can be debated, however the film makers do their best in representing the flavor of the period. All of the actors give strong performances with Broderick being a surprise success for such a serious role.

Denzel Washington is powerful in his portrayal as a slave turned soldier with frustrating and poignant moments. Morgan Freeman provides stability and balance to the men around him as they cope with their fears of war and prejudices around them.

A good film for families to watch and discuss afterward.
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