Golden Oldies On the Big Screen Golden Oldies On the Big Screen

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, July 19, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies have selected the Civil War film ‘Glory’ for its July golden-oldie offering, and it’s a wonderful choice. The three-time Oscar-winner (for best sound, Freddie Francis for best cinematography and Denzel Washington for best supporting actor) is an epic that deserves to be seen on the big screen, and it will be shown in several Megaplex and Cinemark theaters on Sunday, July 21, and Wednesday, July 24. Here’s my Deseret News review, published Feb. 16, 1990.

It's becoming increasingly rare these days for a movie to come along and really blow you out of your chair. It's even more rare that such a film has a big-screen look to it, one that is certain to lose something when reduced to video.

But "Glory" is such a film: big in scope, powerful in its storytelling drama, intimate in its character and relationship development. And to top it off, it's all true. Well, mostly.

History buffs — and especially Civil War buffs — should be excited about the arrival of "Glory." But don't think this is a movie that will appeal only to experts. Here's a film that knows how to be honest, emotional, highly moving and supremely entertaining.

The capsule description is this: The first black regiment is formed for the Northern army, led by a 25-year-old officer. In many ways the regiment is intended as a token with the black volunteers — most of them runaway slaves — doing dirty work to free up white troops so they can go into battle. But the officer who has built this prideful unit of men knows that his soldiers are eager to fight for themselves. And he intends to lead them into battle.

     

Jihmi Kennedy, left, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, 'Glory'

Matthew Broderick does very well as the young officer and among his troops are two of our finest actors — Morgan Freeman (also currently starring in "Driving Miss Daisy") and Denzel Washington (currently in "Heart Condition").

"Glory" has something of a wandering narrative, traveling between Broderick's story (with some voice-over narration via letters to his mother) and the black troops.

Four soldiers in particular are featured — Freeman as a former gravedigger who is, if the term isn't too anachronistic, "street-smart," and who will become the first black non-commissioned officer; Washington as an angry escaped slave who has been consistently beaten and shoeless for far too long; Jihmi Kennedy, as a stammering, uneducated field hand; and Andre Braugher as an educated friend of Broderick who learns about soldiering the hard way. There are also nice turns by Cary Elwes ("The Princess Bride") as Broderick's friend and fellow officer and Cliff DeYoung, doing his patented nasty authority figure.

In some ways, the intertwining stories of the characters here follow accepted Army-movie clichés — the tough older sergeant who is wise enough to point the way and soft enough to care, the rebellious individualist who learns the value of working as part of the unit, the seemingly incompetent intellectual who performs an act of bravery in the line of duty, etc.

And in some ways the focus of attention is probably too much on Broderick’s character, though his story is not one that lingers longest in memory — in mine, at least.

     

                     Matthew Broderick, 'Glory'

But it's hard to find too much fault with a film that is not only noble in its intentions but succeeds so well. "Glory" is a movie of rare emotional power that also educates its audience about an aspect of our history that has too long been neglected.

The history lesson alone is worth the price of admission. Everything else is a tremendous bonus.

As a footnote, we should point out that screenwriter Kevin Jarre, director Edward Zwick and producer Freddie Fields were robbed. "Glory" should be up for best picture, best screenplay and best director Oscars. (Though it was nominated for five Oscars, all but one were in technical categories. Denzel Washington is up for best supporting actor, but the rest are for art direction, cinematography, editing and sound.)

And as for the film's R rating, it is probably deserved. The violence does get rather gory in places, though it's easy to see why it was deemed necessary in a depiction of what was certainly a very bloody war. There is also some profanity, though, taken in context, it doesn't seem particularly gratuitous.