Monday, April 12, 2010

Glory (1989)

GLORY
DIRECTED BY: EDWARD ZWICK
WRITTEN BY: KEVIN JARRE
BASED ON THE LETTERS BY: ROBERT GOULD SHAW
WATCHED FOR: LIFE OF A CINEPHILE WAR MOVIE BLOG-A-THON
TOP 100 FILMS: #7
OVERALL SCORE: 10/10

New appointed Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) takes charge of the first ever all-black volunteer company.

"We fight for men and women whose poetry is not yet written but which will presently be as enviable and as renowned as any."

Before Seven Samurai made its way into my heart, Glory was my uncontested, and inarguable, number 1 film. A movie so rich in personal association, I dared not remove it from that spot for fear of the emotional consequences. In fact to move it as I traversed, and fell in love with, more movies was of great personal sadness to me. It's the first movie I can remember truly crying over. The first film to hit the top of any list I ever made. The first movie I ever reviewed nearly 7 years ago!

A rich history with a film rich in history itself. I kind of like that. To me Glory is as much the best war movie made, as it is perhaps one of the best movies made in all of its subjects. There's a reason it echoes throughout schoolrooms over 20 years later. It has all the grandeur of emotion, character, and dedication, needed to make it so memorable.

Beautifully directed with steadfast dedication to the material, Zwick's natural talent for grasping the importance of scenes is on full display here. From the foggy, eloquent, opening to the smoke filled, and powerful, finale, Glory is truly a sight to see.

And it gets that way because it honestly cares about its material. It presents racism, acceptance, and everything in between. It'll bring you to love some, force you to hate others, and in the end ask that you, at the very least, understand them. Even the best of the men are flawed in their efforts. And that's what makes them approachable to the viewer. With each actor giving their all to breath life into them.

Matthew Broderick's Shaw is as capable as any performer. Unsure, but steadfast, inexperienced, but determined. It's a perfect fit, and critics who cite Broderick's youth need to recheck their history (Shaw was in his early 20's at the time). Broderick benefits by being wonderfully counterbalanced by the likes of Cary Elwes, Andrew Braugher, Morgan Freeman, and Jihmi Kennedy (such a great performance, the fact that he got no work afterward is a crime!).

Then, of course, there's Denzel Washington in his Oscar winning best supporting actor role. This was the first film I ever saw of Washington, and, wow, what an impression. Strong, but emotionally available. Haunted by a past, but certain to create a new future. His character's transformation is at the heart of the film. The ups and downs, shared in unison with Shaw create a relationship unlike any other. And the final shot of Glory captures that very essence so powerful, it has never once left my mind.

I do have to say it doesn't hurt when you have a score from James Horner that may very well be one of the most powerful, beautiful, and emotionally charged scores I've ever heard. Whenever I hear it, I replay the entire film in my mind. In a matter of a single musical cord I'm thrust back into this sweeping world. I can think of only a few musical scores with such a lasting impact.

You put it all together, and you get one of the most memorable movie going experiences you'll dare ever have. A pinnacle of the war film genre. Beautiful, epic, emotional, and wrenched in raw heroism. I've loved Glory since I first saw it. And I dare believe I'll always love it. Because, no matter how many times I see it, I always feel that same emotional connection. I feel the same way about it now as I did when I first saw it nearly 10 years ago. Now, that's classic.


When it comes to war films, everyone has their favorite. As for me. Glory is my pride and joy. It's the epitome of everything I seek out in the genre. A staple of heroism, and race. To express how much I love it in mere words, would be doing it a disservice.

5 better thoughts:

Mike Lippert said...

Yes this is a really great movie. The scene where Freeman scolds Washington is among the best either actor has ever done. Zwick is a natural born filmmaker even though I don't like some of his movies and think the ending of the otherwise excellent Last Samurai was pretty bad. This film is also much better than most of the other big budget civil war movies like Gettysburg and Gods and Generals. Good review. Made me want to go dust off my copy of this one once more.

Castor said...

Indeed Univarn, indeed. Glory is one of the best war movies ever made and it's nice seeing Denzel Washington in a great supporting role unlike all his subsequent movie lead star turns.

Chase Kahn said...

I certainly like "Glory," and it has, in fact, been a long time since I've seen it, but I think it does have a bit of that Ed Zwick racial simplicity and audience manipulation that completely bogs down his lesser films like "The Last Samurai," "Blood Diamond," and "Defiance."

Like I said, I haven't seen it in a while, but that overall impression has always stuck with me.

Univarn said...

@Mike I fell asleep watching Gods and Generals. Gettysburg was fine, but really lacked the social importance of what was going on around it.

@Castor Yeah, I think Denzel has been way too up and down throughout his career. But when he's on, he's as good as any.

@Chase Sometimes I'd agree Zwick does aim for simplification. Though I think it's because his films are often too socially ambitious to be compacted into the mainstream platforms he aims for. But seldom does the way he handle it really undermine the film for me.

Alfindeol said...

Great review! I adore Glory, it has some of my favorite actors in it, Broodrick, Washington, Freeman and Elwes all hold special spots in my heart. The ending here is really pretty profound. I love how futile it all ended up being since the north never even came close to taking that fort.

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