Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Movie Review: Glory (1989)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Powerful story and great performances
Cons: Most characters slightly underdeveloped; predictable story
The Bottom Line:
Historic soldiers
Fighting in historic war
Historical film

Fighting For Your Own Freedom

I will freely admit to having pre-judged Glory long before I saw it.  Just knowing what it was about was enough to make me feel I'd know my reaction to it.  When my roommate recorded it off TV, I decided to test my theory, and I was right.

The movie tells the story of Colonel Robert Shaw (Matthew Broderick), a northern who is part of the army during the Civil War.  He isn't seeing much action.  While home on leave, he is offered the chance to lead up the first regiment made up of runaway slaves and free black men.  When he takes the job, it proves much tougher than he ever expected.  Can he get his men into fighting shape?  Will they ever see combat?

It's a war movie, and that really tells you everything you need to know about the plot.  And that was one thing I had judged this movie on before I saw it.  I found as I watched it that I was completely right in how my expectations were met.

Now, as I always say, that doesn't mean the movie can't still be very entertaining, and it was.  I was pulled into the story of the regiment and everything they had to endure.  Even though this was set in history, I was outraged at some of the abuse that Shaw had to fight against.  I even learned a thing or two about the Civil War I didn't know before.  (No, I'm not taking a movie at face value, but these new facts appear to be backed up elsewhere as well.)

Where the movie could have done better is the characters.  We really get to know Shaw, but the rest of the men are fairly interchangeable.  Even Shaw's friend and fellow officer Major Forbes (Cary Elwes) could have been better developed.  That would have made the predictable ending even more powerful to me.

I'm not faulting the actors one bit.  Okay, I had a bit of trouble picturing the usual comedic Matthew Broderick in a serious role, but he was great in the part.  Likewise, Cary Elwes was a great actor with the scenes he was given.  Among the African-American soldiers we have the likes of Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman who bring their usual outstanding acting to this film.  Really, it was the script that should have developed the characters better.

Being a war film, there are several battle scenes, and they looked as realistic as I wanted them to look.  Since I'm fairly squeamish, I don't mind if things are toned down a little, but I bought what I saw.

In case you haven't figured it out, I expected Glory to be a powerful but predictable war movie.  While I felt stronger characters would have made it more powerful overall, I'm pleased to say that I was mostly right.

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