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The heart-stopping story of the first black regiment to fight for the North in the Civil War, Glory stars Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes and Morgan Freeman. Broderick and Elwes are the idealistic young Bostonians who lead the regiment; Freeman is the inspirational sergeant who unites the troops; and Denzel Washington, in an Oscar-winning performance (1989, Best Supporting Actor), is the runaway slave who embodies the indomitable spirit of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts.
For more about Glory and the Glory Blu-ray release, see Glory Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 28, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes, Cliff De Young, Andre Braugher
Director: Edward Zwick
» See full cast & crew
Glory Blu-ray Review
A stirring Drama of the human character dazzles on Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 28, 2009
We fight for men and women whose poetry is not yet written, but which will presently be as enviable and renowned as any.
Though the American Civil War has not spawned the same number of classic films as either World War II or the Vietnam Conflict, Director Edward Zwick's (Defiance) moving, important, and expertly assembled 1989 film Glory finds its message and setting in the midst of the bloodiest conflict in American history. Though the winner of three Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor (Denzel Washington, Training Day), Best Cinematography, and Best Sound, neither the film, its director, nor its composer earned nominations, both the Best Picture and Best Music, Original Score nomination snubs perhaps two of the great injustices in the history of the award. Not only a well-made film from a technical perspective, Glory takes audiences on a moving spiritual and emotional journey that sees the corruption, repression, and prejudices of the day breed not contempt or hatred but rather a bond among men with not the color of their skin their defining attribute but rather their moral code, spiritual foundation, and unwavering desire for equality not only in the safe haven of their tents but on the front lines of combat.
Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick, Godzilla), a 23-year-old U.S. Army Captain and survivor of the Battle of Antietam, accepts an appointment to lead the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first unit to be comprised of black soldiers. With the new position elevating him to the rank of Colonel, Shaw oversees a band of eager yet unskilled men determined to fight. They include Shaw's longtime friend and intellectual, Thomas (Andre Braugher); a levelheaded man named John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman, The Shawshank Redemption); the smooth-talking Tennessean, Trip (Washington); and the sharpshooting Jupiter Sharts (Jihmi Kennedy). With the help of his friend, Major Cabot Forbes (Cary Elwes, The Princess Bride) and a hard-nosed Irish drill instructor (John Finn), the regiment becomes skilled and disciplined in the ways of modern warfare but are prohibited the tools and necessities needed to carry out their duty as soldiers thanks to both politics and bigotry. Among their obstacles are reduced pay and a shortage of adequate footwear. Nevertheless, Shaw's determination, family's stature, and leadership sees the men through, culminating in earning them the privilege of facing the enemy head-on and proving their worth as both soldiers and men.
Thematically, Glory is a triumph despite plot developments that lend to it an air of tragedy. The film uses tragedy to accentuate the plight of oppression and prejudice; to highlight the absolute good of the men and their mission; and to reinforce the bonds of brotherhood that develop by film's end, where a man's skin color, education, or other artificial social and political boundaries blur in favor of trust, belief, courage, and loyalty to both one another and to a greater cause. Whether at the end of the lash or in the face of impossible odds against a well-fortified enemy, the film's most agonizing, depressing moments serve to reinforce the positive themes of courage and equality, lending to both the film and its themes not insincere drama but rather an honest and profound portrayal of true heroism against a backdrop that sought only to deny the men the very opportunities for which they so valiantly wish to fight and, if need be, die.
Glory strives not to entertain, preach, or inform, but rather to tell an uplifting, important story that not only documents a slice of American history but also sets out to inspire its audience to learn the value of courage, integrity, and brotherhood in the face of any obstacle. The film delivers a stirring recount of the power of basic human principles that, when championed, win perhaps not the day but, ultimately, influence the greater good through example. The men of the 54th Massachusetts are remembered not necessarily for the color of their skin but rather for their bravery, for their ability to unite, for their desire to strive for something greater than the individual, to face head-on enemies on either side of the rifle barrel only in the hope of overcoming life-inhibiting obstacles. Neither the color of their skin nor whether they live or die matters; it is their understanding of fundamental human principles, of their desire for good, of their unwavering spirit, for which history remembers them, and by which Glory positively succeeds as a film, for it captures not the superficialities of skin color but rather the underlying principles of the men who fought not as individuals but as brothers that makes their story so profound and important even some 150 years later.
Bringing the film and its meaning to life are a series of phenomenal performances on either side of the camera. Denzel Washington's Oscar-winning role both electrifies and pulls the heartstrings, his character representing the core of the film as a man that seems to be in control of his person and place in the world but whose soul is as wayward as any man's in the regiment. Throughout the course of the film, his character sees several transformations, beginning as a man that cowers from his past and demons by belittling his peers, growing into a man that understands the role of honor and responsibility but unsure of his role in accepting it, and maturing into a stalwart man that exemplifies courage and honor. One of the film's best scenes sees his character, Private Trip, steady a shaky and fearful Private Thomas moments before an assault on a fortified enemy position, marking his final turning point from a recalcitrant and confused man to a dependable and strong brother-in-arms. The film also features several standout performances both among both the primary cast -- Matthew Broderick, Cary Elwes, Morgan Freeman, Jihmi Kennedy, and Andre Braugher -- and the secondary players -- Bob Gunton, Cliff De Young, and Richard Riehle. Last, but certainly not least, is James Horner's remarkable score. Horner's effort here completes the film. Combining a militaristic refrain with angelic notes, the track fully supports the themes of the film, adding the finishing touches to the drama and meaning of the picture.
Glory Blu-ray, Video Quality
Glory debuts on Blu-ray with a high quality 1080p, 1.85:1-framed transfer. Though the film often sports a somewhat hazy, faded appearance, the transfer reflects the intended look and sparkles in context. Battlefield smoke and drab colors occasionally mask fine detail, but the transfer nevertheless exhibits a wonderful film-like appearance. A generally heavy layer of film grain enhances the experience, and though the transfer sees some noise over bright backgrounds and the occasional speckle, it nevertheless recalls a nicely-rendered theatrical presentation. The transfer enjoys a fair amount of depth and detail in background objects. Likewise, close-up shots showcase an adequate level of detail in the uniforms, character faces, the brick façades and the wooden crates and barrels seen throughout the picture, and the sandy South Carolina beaches seen at the end of the film. Generally, the image is sharp, though several scenes exhibit a hint of softness that lends a bit of a surreal feel to them. The film features varying color schemes, parts of the film appearing almost monochromatic while others see vibrant reds and blues on the flags or greens that make up the grasses lining the fields of Antietam. Flesh tones and black levels don't disappoint. Glory is not a vibrant or abundantly colorful picture, but this Blu-ray presentation highly impresses thanks to its film-like presentation and faithfulness to the source.
Glory Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Glory comes alive on Blu-ray with a well-crafted Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Explosions pack a wallop, some a bit more clear than others, with some sounding more like a jumbled mess of sound. Nevertheless, the track generally impresses. Artillery fire screams from one side of the soundstage to another, and the power of musket volleys penetrates the listening area and creates a terrifying sensation that brings the War to vivid life. After the battle of Antietam, the moans and cries of wounded men populate the listening area, accompanied by a slew of subtle sound effects heard off in the distance that never sounded so clear as they do here. Indeed, atmospherics impress throughout. The chatter and clanking of silverware in a scene in chapter three or a thunderstorm in chapter four that completely envelops the soundstage adds realism to the mix. The period wartime music, particularly the percussion section of the regiment's marching band, plays nicely all across the front soundstage with a fair amount of heft in support. Likewise, James Horner's score has never sounded better, both the military beats and the lighter, more angelic notes pouring from the speakers with pinpoint precision throughout the entire dynamic range. Dialogue, while generally strong, occasionally plays as a bit muffled. On the whole, though, Glory sounds great, easily the best the film has ever played for home viewing.
Glory Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Glory enlists on Blu-ray with a nice selection of supplements. The package is headlined by a commentary track with Director Edward Zwick. He recounts both the making of the film and historical accounts of the War. He speaks on the violence of the War and its translation to the film, the locations and lighting, varied filming techniques used throughout the film, the work of the actors, the score, and so much more. Zwick delivers a superb track that is a must-listen for both fans of the film in particular and cinema in general. Virtual Civil War Battlefield allows users to click through points-of-interest on a map and learn about various aspects of the Civil War through both text and video-based features. The Voices of 'Glory' (480p, 11:18) is an all-too-brief feature that recounts the history of the 54th, primarily through letters written by the men during their wartime experiences. The True Story Continues (480p, 45:18) is a piece, narrated by Morgan Freeman, that takes viewers deeper into the history of the period and the 54th, intercut with actual and deleted scenes from the film. Original Theatrical Making-Of Featurette (480p, 7:36) is a vintage piece that recounts the story, features interview clips with cast and crew, and showcases behind-the-scenes footage. Next up is a pair of 480p deleted scenes (The Apple Picker, 3:03, and Crisis of Conscience, 2:35) with optional director's commentary. Concluding the supplements is BD-Live (Blu-ray profile 2.0) functionality and 1080p trailers for The Da Vinci Code: Extended Cut, The Patriot, Black Hawk Down, Air Force One, and The Legend of Zorro.
Glory Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Director Edward Zwick's Glory is the definitive Civil War picture. Though not as epic-in-scope as Gettysburg, it is the more fundamentally and emotionally sound of the two, a picture where the drama defines the story and never becomes lost under the action. A winner of several Oscars though disappointingly failing to earn nominations for Best Picture and Best Score, the film nevertheless remains critical viewing not for its portrayal of the Civil War but rather for its profile in courage as a group of men define themselves not by the color of their skin but rather by their moral code, brotherhood, and steadfastness in defending both their lives and the principals they stand for, no matter the odds or their opponent. Completed by a memorable score courtesy of James Horner, Glory is a lasting tribute to both the power of courage and heroism and fantastic filmmaking. Sony's Blu-ray release of Glory never disappoints. Sporting a strong, film-like transfer; a powerful lossless soundtrack; and a fine selection of bonus materials; there is no reason not to make one of the best War films of the past several decades a permanent addition to any Blu-ray collection. Highly recommended.
Glory: Other Editions
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