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Glory (1989)

Their innocence. Their heritage. Their lives. Nothing would be spared in the fight for their freedom.

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 122 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15


Orson Welles once warned Sergio Leone never to make a movie about the American Civil War as they were box office poison but after the successes of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Gone with the Wind, Cold Mountain and Glory, it can be safely said that old fatface was wrong. Glory is probably the most important movie, although not the best, from this bunch thanks to it bringing predominantly unknown heroic deeds to the attention of a whole spectrum of moviegoers.

Edward Zwick’s movie is based on the letters of Colonel Robert G. Shaw (Broderick) – the commander of the first company of black soldiers during the American civil war. From the moment Shaw is placed in command of this fledgling unit he and his men are forced to deal with the prejudices of both the Confederate enemy and his own racist superiors as they try to meld themselves into a crack unit capable of fighting for their freedom in battle. The men, from all classes of black society in the years before the abolishment of slavery, were made up of runaway slaves, spiritual leaders and intellectuals who often disagreed with each other as well as the whites who denied them their human rights.

Inexplicably, Glory had a budget of $18 million and that begs the question – just what did they spend it on? The battles are ametuerish and look like they have been stolen from made-for-TV dramas and I’m sure I could secure the services of Matthew Broderick for ten dollars and a funsize can of Pepsi. But it does have Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington and Andre Braugher believably relaying different facets of black soldiers’ experiences of the war. Washington’s plays the bravely stubborn Private Trip with such anger and passion that he was well worth his breakthrough Oscar and Freeman’s Sargeant Major brings compassion and humanty to the horrific scenes of war. Most importantly, this is a fascinating account of a very momentous episode in American history. This story had to be told and it’s conveyed fairly from both a black and a white perspective and, for the most part, without cheesy sentimentality and over-glorifying of the deeds done onscreen.

It's Got: A well told story, Denzel Washington's breakthrough film role, Matthew Broderick - really the best they could do?

It Needs: To be judged in terms of storytelling rather than the cinematography (garnered an Oscar!) or lack of gritty realism.

DVD Extras 2-disc special edition reviewed. It includes: commentaries from the direct and Broderick and co., trailers of Glory and other Civil War films, promotional featurette, and 'The Voices of Glory' and 'The True Nature of Glory Continues' feauturettes give two decent round ups of background information. DVD Extras Rating: 8/10


This American Civil War epic has the feeling of a made-for-TV movie but is carried by a truly inspiring story and some excellent performances.