Glory has often been noted as a film that doesn’t get the attention it deserved and quite rightly so. The true story of the first all black regiment in the American Civil War: The Massachusetts 54th Regiment. The film is based on letters sent by the troop’s commanding officer Colonel Robert G Shaw (Matthew Broderick).
The film structures itself as a biographical account using its various characters to depict the feelings and hardships from varying view points of people within the regiment, sporadically using the letters as a tool to push the narrative forward. The film focusing largely on the bigoted attitudes and the challenges the 54th faced in attempt to prove their worth within highly prejudiced times and regardless of context it also manages to also be a harrowing account of the Civil War itself.
The battle scenes are all fairly graphic and justly depict the war without glorifying it. Whilst it does this it also manages to contrast this notion with the attitudes of the men trying to prove themselves by seeking out glory in battle and attempting to get amidst the action. The idea that all men are equal is clear as they strive to be given the opportunity to assert they too are wiling and able to fight for this cause is clear and not forced, but a beautiful message highlighted by the background of war and the oppression they faced from within their own military. The whole film gets added impact from its opening battle which shows Broderick experiencing the brutality and true nature of conflict first hand and sets a just tone and understanding of exactly what it is they would gain from proving their worth despite the futility and consequence surrounding it.
The characters within the film are all clearly set as different archetypes; Broderick’s portrayal of the leader who finds it difficult to disengage from duty and propriety whilst remaining empathetic to his men right down to Morgan Freeman’s subtle depiction of a wise and often noble solider, each character has been designed to offer a wide pallet for social commentary. But it’s Denzel Washington who shines out amongst the cast as an ex slave who’s defiance and difficulty conforming is a fact born out of his own experience and prejudices, a performance so strong it bagged him a well-deserved Oscar.
As the film progresses and the bonds become stronger, the film does well to show the struggles and the oppression the men faced in those defining moments of history and it all looks wonderful with beautiful cinematography and a glossy feel in the Blu-ray package, proving to be a powerful and provocative as well as aesthetically pleasing film. The final battle gives credit to the men’s bravery as well as the filmmaking and sums up the film perfectly both as a story and a film with a series of moving well shot moments as they head into and within a battle where the odds are stacked clearly and enormously against them. It rings clear that in the face of such adversity colour is not what merits the strength of a man.
A great film and certainly a welcome edition to any film fan's collection, I highly recommend.
EXTRAS *** A well-presented package with enough features to extend the life of the Blu-ray including: Virtual Civil War Battlefield Interactive Map, The True Story of Glory Continues narrated by Morgan Freeman, The Voices of Glory, The Making of Glory, Director's Commentary, Crisis of Conscience, Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary.