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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 21, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 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
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 21, 2013
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
Sony's commitment to releasing the finest Blu-ray products is evident with every spin of a Sony-branded disc. The consistency of product -- from the latest blockbusters to the most cherished classic titles from years gone by -- is arguably tops in the entire industry, and why shouldn't it be; Sony was a lead Blu-ray design and advocacy outfit, its PlayStation 3 console offered disc playback and instant wide format adoption, and the first wave of titles released back in 2006 bore the Sony label on the spine. Since then, and through a few growing pains and spurts -- a bloody format war, a misstep or two, the transition from Dolby TrueHD to DTS-HD Master Audio -- the studio has emerged as the most trustworthy in the industry when it comes to its Blu-ray product. When it says Sony, chances are extremely high that the movie is going to look (and sound) about as good as the format allows. Now, Sony is recalling the days of its "Superbit" DVD releases with the emergence of "Mastered in 4K" (*) Blu-ray discs. The initial wave consists of a handful of films, all of which have enjoyed previous, and largely very high quality, Blu-ray transfers. The new transfers are sourced from 4K masters but here's where the giant asterisk comes in: they're then downscaled to standard Blu-ray 1080p resolution. That means buyers can enjoy them on their regular old Blu-ray players and their regular old HDTVs -- no fancy new hardware required. The downside is that viewers aren't really seeing the material in 4K; even those who shell out the large sum of cash for a new 4K TV will be treated only to an upscaled presentation, much the same way today's regular old TV/playback 1080p device combos upscale standard definition DVDs.
Watching the "Mastered in 4K" transfer in 1080p does yield some benefits over the standard 1080p Blu-ray releases, even if it's not a true 4K experience. The discs take advantage of a significantly higher bitrate than regular old Blu-ray discs, meaning more muscle to produce the finest picture quality, revealing superior details and showcasing that perfect cinematic, pleasing grain texturing for pictures photographed on film and more accuracy for those photographed in the wholly digital realm. "Mastered in 4K" discs also promise superior color balance and accuracy, reproducing a more faithful-to-the-source palette that will reveal the sort of natural shading and subtle nuance even the best of 1080p Blu-ray cannot match. More, Sony promises enhanced viewing on its own line of 4K TVs thanks to a proprietary upscaling algorithm that's designed to squeeze the most out of the "Mastered in 4K" line of Sony discs, above and beyond what any competitor's display can offer. Makes sense considering some branch of Sony is at work along every step of the process. Unfortunately, one of Sony's shiny new 4K televisions was not available for review purposes, but suffice it to say that either of the launch displays -- the 55" and 65" XBR-labeled sets -- will undoubtedly offer the best consumer viewing picture to date, whether joined with a Sony "Mastered in 4K" disc or a regular old Blu-ray from any studio.
Sony previously released Glory to Blu-ray in June 2009 to largely excellent results in the picture quality department. The studio has revisited one of the best films in its -- or any studio's -- library with a more balanced, more filmic, more beautiful presentation of the Civil War classic. The transfer showcases fine grain throughout, grain that's even and subtle but critically present to help define the finest details and provide a pure cinematic texture. Grain does spike once or twice, notably when Shaw is first presented with the opportunity to command the regiment while in the presence of Governor Andrew and Frederick Douglass. The details throughout the film are largely spectacular. The brightest scenes yield the best clarity and visible nuance, particularly in the blue uniform textures -- fabric, frays, rank insignia -- all the way down to the design on Shaw's sword, seen briefly in the opening minutes in a shot showing him on the march towards Antietam. Additionally, facial textures are complexly pure, and terrain, vegetation, and manmade structures look fantastic. Even in darker scenes and through the literal fog of war -- when smoke from cannon and musket fire clutter the screen -- the transfer's superior stability shines through. Colors are beautifully balanced and fully accurate. Red trimming on drums, brass buttons on uniforms, blue rank insignia, and flags all sparkle. Certainly, the entire palette feels a little more vibrant than that of the previous release, though not by significant leaps and bounds. Skin textures, too, appear perfectly balanced. Black levels sometimes drift to a slightly pale appearance in the darkest shots. The image appears free of unwanted edge enhancement, banding, blockiness, or other eyesores. To be sure, this is an improvement over the previous release, not quite so pronounced as Ghostbusters but more pronounced than, say, The Karate Kid. Still, a fabulous transfer all around and, even without an upscaling ability, a must for dedicated fans of what is one of the finest motion pictures ever made.
All screenshots have been sourced from the "Mastered in 4K" Blu-ray disc. The first sixteen shots have been selected to match those found in the review of the old release. New screenshots have also been aded for perusal.
Glory Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Glory comes alive on Blu-ray with a well-crafted Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack, the same, it seems, as found on the previous release. 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
THis Blu-ray release of Glory contains no bonus content.
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 "Mastered in 4K" Blu-ray release of Glory contains no extra content, a good lossless soundtrack, and a great "Mastered in 4K" transfer. It's an improvement, albeit not a major one, over the last release. Considering the quality of the film, the uptick in PQ, and the rather low price, those who deeply appreciate Director Edward Zwick's masterpiece owe it to themselves to make a purchase. Highly recommended.
Glory: Other Editions
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