GLORY ... Hallelujah!
J. Michael Click | Fort Worth, Texas United States | 12/20/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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 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 phenomenal DVD experience!
The best Civil War movie of all time.
Chris C. | Cordova, South Carolina United States | 11/05/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Being a Civil War reenactor, as a group we tend to be very skeptical of the historical movies that hollywood provides.Glory is probably the only movie that almost every reenactor liked and sung the praises for. Glory stands out as a masterpiece of this terrible time in the nations history. The cast was outstanding. Broderick is entirely convincing in his role as the idealistic young Colonel Robert Gould Shaw who commanded ONE of the first all black units of the Civil war. Morgan freeman captures the persona of the "wise, veteran seargeant" that is a classic motif of the war movie genre. However to me the actor who steals the show is without a doubt Denzel Washington. Washington gave even us rebs someone to admire(even as he was taking down 2 and 3 rebs at a time) as he went from the angry, rebellious young private(and for good reason) to the fine soldier.The plot of the movie is consistent, and came across as a true STORY to the audience, and not just a lecture. The film captured the extremely racist attitudes of the time, and the utter hell that the characters went through to overcome it. Also the score was great, especially the final climatic scene for the attack on Battery Wagner. When Shaw is killed by Confederates, the score picks up with a perfect tune as the 54th makes their final assault. But most importantly the movie does not bore the average viewer like Gettysburg did with its hours of talk. The movie takes a very good story, throws in some great characters, and follows it to a T. There is no wasted scene in Glory(which is more then we can say for other Civil war attempted movies). This made it a joy for both Civil War buff and regular viewer alike. Now for the big sticking point. Historical accuracy. To this the movie scores a rather well score. Sure the final battle was not 100 percent accurate, and even the earliar skirmish in the woods(known in the war as the Battle for Sol Legare Island). But this movie was not a documentary. Its goal was not to give a blow by blow history of the 54th... just to tell their general "story". With that intent, the movie greatly lived up to its accolades for its accuracy. The battle scenes were outstanding and gave war its "hellish" view that was absent in Gettysburg to large degree. Only Private Ryan beats this movie in its effect at showing the viewer a taste of War.Glory has also been arguable the most influential Civil War movie of all time. Tens of Thousands of people who had never picked up a Civil war book in their life, became hooked on this time period from Glory. That will perhaps be one of its finer legacies. How many african Americans(and Americans in general) became aware for the first time of those Blacks who wore a uniform in the Civil War from this movie. Countless. How many people do not know that honored legacy now that Glory has come out. Very few.Move over Gettysburg, GWTW, and all the other "attempts" at a Civil war movie. Glory will probably never be topped in this genre. The best!!"
"Give 'em hell, 54th!"
D. Mikels | Skunk Holler | 12/12/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
A fitting tribute to Colonel R. G. Shaw and his brave men
Sally Burnell | Kent, Ohio USA | 04/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."