Glory (1989) (R)
"Glory", like many other war movies, can sometimes overflow its cup with sentimentality. I can also dehumanize the enemy—something that great anti-war movies find time to do. But I wouldn't qualify "Glory" as an anti-war film. Instead, it's in inappropriately titled film about racial issues, backgrounded with war.
Yet when the movie is over, what is the movie saying about the characters? Certainly they were fighting for a cause; or that's how they justified it to themselves. Beyond that, what was the movie accomplishing more than showing a piece of history—one that, regrettably, we probably already knew?
Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) is a an officer during the American Civil War. He is at Antietam and faints from either lack of blood or sheer shock. When he gets woken up, he returns home to Boston to his abolitionist father and mother. They tell him that, with the help of Frederick Douglass, there is to be an all-black company in the army. They want some one to lead said company. Thinking that he is doing the right thing, Shaw become a colonel and leads the volunteer company.
But as soon as the company is formed, they encounter problems. Those about Shaw will not green-light uniforms and shoes to the men. They get poor provisions and they struggle with the training.
Yet Shaw awakens a blood-lust in the men that could be defined as "patriotism"—yet it would be erroneous to call it that. These men are just fighting because they don't want to be slaves, they want the money the army is going to give them, and some for their country—those ones are outnumbered.
The men do come to love America and they fight for their home country.
The actual battle scenes from the movie don't compare with any battle sequences from nearly any other great war movie. Up against it is the storming of the hill from "The Thin Red Line" and the mesmerizing scenes from "Apocalypse Now". Even the battle moments from "Paths of Glory" outshine this movie.
There is attention to detail here—the costumes are recreated, the buildings look the year, and the accents are attempted.
The acting isn't bad here—the movie would earn Denzel Washington an Oscar—but I don't find it anything spectacular. Matthew Broderick is the most curious casting choice. He seems to flirt between cowardice, efficiency, ruthlessness, and courageousness. It's kind of a mess to watch.
Acting veteran Morgan Freeman joins the cast, he's one of the most enjoyable to watch.
Here's my problem with the movie—the obstacles that the men have to overcome don't seem that severe. They are denied clothes and shoes, but all it takes is a temper tantrum from Shaw to clear that up. Then they want to fight, but instead are taken on a viking-like pillaging expedition where Shaw sees a different side of the war.
Because the men are black, they are paid less and, should they get caught behind enemy lines, they will be executed.
The black men quarrel with the white men, but there really isn't that much cynicism displayed on screen.
Director Edward Zwick and screenwriter Kevin Jarre seem to think that the audience will empathize with the cause just because of the skin color. To an extent that is true...but that's not what the movie is about.
A scene leads a character to be flogged as punishment. He is stripped down and his back is thick with scars. Yet the whipping continues and he just stone-face cries through it.
What does this scene accomplish? It's just giving facts to the viewer in an unnecessary way. We all know the abuse that occurred towards slaves. If you're not going to have the guts to show it, don't include it in your story.
Still "Glory" is a safe movie and a somewhat endearing movie.
It's not a great movie and it carries on far too long. The end point is that African American people are just like the rest of us—a moral that I feel all of us already know and those who don't, wouldn't see the film anyway.
Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones