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2 reviews, 86 user ratings

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by Isobel Sharp

"Why would anyone fight by the side of people who respected him so little?"
5 stars

Going to war has always been an accepted way for a boy to become a man. Send them away wet behind the ears, and get them back with discipline, responsibility, and maybe some shrapnel to keep the lessons fresh. In Glory, however, we see people, treated at the best of times like boys, on their way to becoming men in many different ways, not the least significant of which is by showing that "all men are created equal" should indeed apply to them.

Glory, set during the Civil War, tells the tale of one of the first black regiments in the US Army, the 54th Massachusetts, and the struggle for the members of this regiment to find respect, not only from the whites they must work with and below, but from each other, and even from themselves. As they are changed from a group of men into a fighting unit, these individuals explore what it means to be a man, in a situation where the power structure, the law, and common culture define you as anything but. This growth is not restricted to the black members of the unit; their leader, Colonel Shaw (Matthew Broderick) must also figure out how to be a leader of men who are very much unlike himself, and in a situation that his upper-class education and upbringing have not adequately prepared him for.

Each major character comes into this situation from a different perspective. Thomas (Andre Braugher, in a poignant role), an educated northern free black man, doesn't quite know how to understand his less privileged fellow soldiers, who come from backgrounds so different from his own. He fights because he believes it is the right thing to do, but the problem of slavery is one which has always been abstract to him - seeing former slaves and their ways and attitudes towards the world (and himself) comes as quite a shock to this rather genteel man. At the other end of the spectrum is Trip (Denzel Washington, doing a blazingly powerful job from start to finish), a runaway slave who routinely expects the worst from everyone, black and white alike, and is fighting largely because he believes that nobody else will really fight for him.

Trip is the center of one of the most painful and illuminating scenes in the film, in which he is flogged for deserting (having left camp overnight in search of a decent pair of shoes). When his shirt is removed, in the presence of nearly his entire unit as well as his Colonel, it becomes obvious that this will not be his first whipping - his back is covered with scars. What's informative are the responses of the onlookers - from the barely concealed wince of Colonel Shaw, to the unsurprised reaction of many of the soldiers, we can see how very far apart these men's experiences of the world are. For Shaw, a flogging is a regretful but necessary way to instill a much-needed sense of military discipline in an untrained group of soldiers. But for Trip, a flogging is just another expression of the power whites hold and have always held over him - a power which is wielded just as firmly by the northern military as the southern slaveholder. Trip's eyes never leave those of Shaw throughout the entire ordeal - it's a harrowing and painful scene to see; both Washington and Broderick do an exceptional job of conveying complex emotions in virtual silence.

The movie is full of great performances, including Morgan Freeman as an older ex-gravedigger who joins up to fight because, after digging the graves of many white northern soldiers who have died fighting to help his people, he leaps at an opportunity to do his part. This is a fine example of the motivation of many of the black soldiers - they know that this war is in part being fought because of them, and yet they've been excluded from the fighting, from proving that they are men worth fighting for. This need to prove themselves, plus the poor treatment they receive from the northern army, leads to a feeling of frustration that at times threatens to tear the unit apart.

A measure of their progress from untrained and unfocused individuals to a group with not only new skills but a strong sense of self-discipline and respect comes when they meet up with another all-black regiment. The men in this regiment, however, have clearly never been encouraged to see themselves as useful soldiers, or been treated with the respect that Shaw unfailingly shows his men. Told to loot a southern town, the men go wild - stealing valuables, striking women, and generally causing havoc, while Shaw and his men look on with unease. Their behavior is used as an example, by their own white commander, as typical of blacks, and why 'they can't take care of themselves'. But the irony is that much of this stolen loot will end up on white commanders' mantels, which the viewer sees in other scenes in the film. Most telling, perhaps, is that the white commander doesn't particularly care if the blacks hit women - as long as they are black women - but striking a white woman leads to a swift death for one soldier at the hands of his commanding officer. Clearly, white women are worthy of respect, but black women are not - the black soldiers' 'animalistic' treatment of black women is an expression of the disrespect the white commander feels, yet does not act.

The black soldiers of the 54th are met with one indignity after another, from failing to be properly equipped (forcing them to wear painfully inadequate shoes, until Shaw goes to limits to supply his men), to having their pay reduced from the standard (white) rate, to being refused a place on the battlefield, kept from what they feel is rightfully their fight by people who don't think they're good enough to do the job. This ultimate insult, being scorned by the very people who are supposed to be helping bring the slaves freedom and, one hopes, equality with whites, is perhaps the most painful one for these men to endure. When they finally get their chance to act on the battlefield the way they feel they must, it's a compelling and powerful moment. The progress made by all these men, black and white, is clear in the closing scenes.

An interesting thing about this film is how much of it relies on the acting rather than the script. This is not to underrate the script, which is excellent, but rather to point out the themes that this movie explores implicitly. Manhood as such is not discussed; nor is respect, but both are critical themes conveyed in the relationships between the characters. Washington won an Oscar for his performance, but he is not alone in deserving notice for his role. It is the acting that goes on quietly, between all members of this strong cast, which makes Glory such an exceptional film.

It's easy to pull heartstrings with a topic like the one covered in this movie - the Oppressor is bad, the Oppressed suffer, and then are redeemed - but Glory is much more complex than that. With so many characters following their own individual paths to growth and redemption, it's not easy to make simple characterizations of anyone present. This is an excellent film, not just because of its handling of an important topic, but because it makes it a story about individuals, not causes.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1288&reviewer=291
originally posted: 01/02/02 01:21:49
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User Comments

9/16/17 morris campbell awesome & moving 5 stars
5/29/16 Jeff Wilder Probably the best Civil war movie ever. Superb all around. 5 stars
4/14/15 jokerass lol 1 stars
8/13/14 Simon Precedent-setting war film,Zwick's signature grasp of scale,tightly acted narrative. Great. 5 stars
2/21/14 Elvo One of the great films ever 5 stars
9/11/11 Alyssa Wonderful movie, glad I was recommened to watch this by my teacher!! 5 stars
4/08/11 Mike Copeland My grandma took me to this movie when I was 12.Cried like a baby, and still do years later. 5 stars
7/08/10 Steve F. Powerful. One of the best films ever made and what movie-making is all about. 5 stars
4/02/10 Lewis H. Best Movie Of 1989 and best Civil War Movie. From The Opening Scene You Will Witness Magic 5 stars
9/08/09 Danny Saw this one recently; had forgotten how moving it is. So tragic that it really happened. 5 stars
9/30/08 action movie fan goo9d start but soon runs out of steam-typical Zwick misfire 3 stars
3/12/08 Mathew One of the Best movies i have ever seen. Matthew Broderick and Denzel Washington are GREAT! 5 stars
12/12/07 James Naughton One of the best films Ive ever seen, the charge on fort wagner will live with me forever. 5 stars
11/19/07 Fuck Ferris Bueller is the man. 5 stars
10/03/07 King H.T. TIGHT; best war movie ever.beat acting by denzel. 5 stars
7/18/07 JoeL A powerful, personal rendition of mans inhumanity to man 4 stars
4/29/07 Harley One of my favorites.Morgan Freeman is the best. 5 stars
4/23/07 kaykay. i really liked this movie. it teaches what happened in an interesting way :] 5 stars
2/23/07 CWwriter The best Civil War movie made; too bad about the ending, but you can't change history. 5 stars
2/21/07 AskTheToughQuestions Glory preserved 1 of, rather the most important lesson in U.S.History.Remember Love... 5 stars
1/30/07 Meghan! Nvr wud watch it if it wernt 4 my flm rvw prjct Glad 2 have stumbled across it. Glorious! 5 stars
1/15/07 poog what a piece of crap movie... its just boring and depressing as hell. worst ending ever. 1 stars
1/08/07 zhao pretty good 4 stars
12/12/06 baby m WOW!!!!! thats all i gotta say is wow, i loved the movie xcept wen matthew dies 5 stars
12/06/06 tejubros great music and powerful moments, shitload of cliches, though 4 stars
11/16/06 abby this movie totally sucked because denzel washingtopn died 1 stars
7/17/06 William Goss Heavy-handed & rousing in equal measure, good performances mixed w/ melodramatic moments. 3 stars
5/18/06 chienne The US Civil war never ceases 2 fascinate me, excellent film 5 stars
5/11/06 SpyV One of the best war movies ever made. Of any period. Powerful and a tear-jerker. 5 stars
4/02/06 Lord Jiggy Touching, valuable, one that everyone should see. 5 stars
3/02/06 Sean Coyle What a powerful experiance... it leaves you with a sense of awe at these men's sacrifices. 5 stars
1/22/06 Kate I thought Matthew Broderick was good, not miscast like some people are saying. 5 stars
8/23/05 Virginia Was a pretty good movie. Denzel was a good actor. 4 stars
8/11/05 ES Wow= what a film 5 stars
8/04/05 neil one of the 2 t greatest films ever made which also includes "the last samurai" 5 stars
8/02/05 ALDO James Horner used to be really awesome 5 stars
6/14/05 Quigley on of the best war films ever made. gotta see this one! 5 stars
8/19/04 John Great music and acting. Immensely powerful, with a real climax. A classic. 5 stars
5/14/04 Read it, Seen it, Done it I really like this movie but Matthew Broderick is all wrong in his role 5 stars
4/30/04 Gray shows history is not clear cut good and bad 5 stars
2/27/04 Kyle "Cold Mountain" sucks! 5 stars
2/18/04 john a bit melodramatic maybe but who cares - it's very good! 4 stars
1/20/04 Elderkinesis not to shabby 5 stars
11/04/03 Buck One of the all-time greatest films. 5 stars
9/20/03 CAT BLUES i loved it touched me when Robert Goldshaw died 5 stars
8/30/03 Kitty Kelso made me burst into tears-BEAUTIFUL!!! 5 stars
3/25/03 Jack Sommersby Rightly regarded as a classic. Extraordinary. 5 stars
1/13/03 john doe great movie 5 stars
10/18/02 Jay The best civil war movie of all-time!!! Good thing Denzel Washington deserved his Oscar!!! 5 stars
10/17/02 Charles Tatum For those who thought the Civil War was "boring" 5 stars
8/01/02 GOOD most realistic depeiction of the civil war 5 stars
6/24/02 Justin The greatest war movie of all time! Whoever doesn't like it is a faggot! 5 stars
4/26/02 Nicole AWESOME FILM!! 5 stars
3/07/02 Mo Anand This is on my top 5 war movies of all time...A great cast with some classic lines 5 stars
11/01/01 Sally Burnell The "real" story is far more dramatic, but this is still very much a film worth seeing! 5 stars
10/09/01 Butterbean Denzel had me on my feet with his performance. 4 stars
7/02/01 TLsmooth Denzel is fucking amazing. What the fuck? I almost cried. 5 stars
6/10/01 Ramsey Deep, moving and real! Great film. 5 stars
5/26/01 BrainPan Better if they got the fort?!? Go see Gladiator for all you historical innaccuracy needs. 5 stars
4/23/01 Skip Young Maybe I need to see it again, but I don't know what all the fuss is over this. 3 stars
3/14/01 master.node Survives Matthew Broderick. 4 stars
3/07/01 Herman Gustafson One of the top three war films ever 5 stars
2/28/01 John Trent One of the best movies i´ve ever seen 5 stars
1/11/01 Matt Choi It's the Bomb, but it'll be better if the ending is they got the fort. 5 stars
1/05/01 amy gunderson sad and upsetting 4 stars
12/18/00 R.W. Welch Attains a very authentic feel, no plot tricks or hokum. 4 stars
12/12/00 Marie Terrific movie-made me cry at the end and I'm not that type of person to do that. 5 stars
11/27/00 SuperGoden (thunder994@hotmail.com) One of the best Civil War films out there 5 stars
11/14/00 The EVIL Penguin A Little boring but still one of the greatest 4 stars
11/06/00 Steven Fisher The best war movie ever!!! 5 stars
9/27/00 infinite s one of denzel's best performances and one of the greatest movies ever 5 stars
9/20/00 magoo awesome 5 stars
8/30/00 Eran The music is better than the movie. 2 stars
8/03/00 Stuart Kuramoto By far one of the best films ever made...the ending never fails to move me to tears. 5 stars
6/15/00 Christine This movie was awesome, and breath taking it gave me chills and tears! 5 stars
5/14/00 Ablah Munshi This movie is realy good i think who didn't see it should. 5 stars
5/01/00 master.node MB can usually act. What happened here? + Gratuitous whipping <- must be PC. 3 stars
4/18/00 larry required viewing for all americans 5 stars
3/31/00 Arnaldo Cruz one of my favorites, great direction,great acting,great score and very powerful in general 5 stars
3/15/00 Mic Great war film - many scenes look like inspirations for Saving Private Ryan. 5 stars
2/28/00 Bozo If Denzel deserved Oscar, Braugher deserved at least a nom; Matt badly miscast 4 stars
1/26/00 Katie Cox its breathe-taking 5 stars
11/29/99 Mic The 6-min sequence near the beginning looks like the inspiration for the 25-min in SPR. 5 stars
1/17/99 Melissa Do not miss it. Denzel is fucking amazing. 5 stars
11/10/98 Silent Rob A beautifully powerful film. Connects on MANY levels. Gloriously filmed and acted. 5 stars
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  02-Feb-1990 (R)
  DVD: 02-Jan-2007


  02-Jul-1990 (M)

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