Director: Edward Zwick
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes, Morgan Freeman
Have I Seen it Before: I got two eyes, a heart, and had cable in the 90s, didn’t I?
Did I Like It: Remember when we could just like blatant Oscar bait movies instead of thinking we’re so savvy that if we can identify the intent behind something, then it must automatically be bad.
Were Glory—the fitfully true story of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Broderick) and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment—to be made today, the backlash would be brewing before any nominations for the Academy Award were even announced. There are large swaths that are emotionally manipulative, sure, but it tries to jam the complex context of both Shaw as a man and the racial attitudes of the time into a package just over two hours long.
Thankfully, it was made in the era in which it was—and it didn’t win too many awards (I’m looking in your direction Forrest Gump (1994))—that we are free to enjoy it for what it is: a stirring war story. It never forgets to entertain, and if it ends up being, morally admirable in the process, that’s fine too.
My only complaints with the film would have to be with the presentation. I’m always up for seeing a beloved film on the big screen, but I’m relatively sure most films made before 2001 should never be converted to to 4K*. The seams show. every shot Washington or Broderick take in the film’s final scenes looks like a hole poked in their uniform, drizzled with a bit of red tempra paint.
Some of the increased resolution does actually help the film. The detailed and what appears to be accurate production design comes to life on a large screen with as much resolution as possible. And, also to be fair, there are some parts that are weighed down by subpar editing. To my count there were no fewer than three instances of a soldier being shot in the face, and we are shown the musket firing, only to quickly cut to the soldier holding their face in pain. Maybe that’s what happens when someone is shot in the face by a musket (I don’t think it is, but am not really interested in researching the point), but the technique only serves to distract when used that many times.
I offer quibble but remain steadfast in my recommendation of the film. That scene before the big battle where all of the soldiers are singing? Doesn’t get much better than that.
*Oddly enough, the only exception to this notion that comes to mind: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).