DIRECTOR: Edward Zwick
May Contain Spoilers!
Only Edward Zwick’s second film, Glory is one of the most powerful mainstream movies of its day. Relatively short for a film which could have easily become a baggy epic, Glory charts the rise of the first all black regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in 1863, which was led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick).
This is loosely based on the events, with the actual letters of Shaw serving as inspiration for the source books and the film itself. Shaw was the son of a Bostonian abolitionist and volunteered to lead the new regiment but would have to face resistance from a society that may well have felt politically motivated to free the slaves but still had a way to go in understanding and respecting them.
But this film is driven by the performances, from not only what is now a who’s who of black actors, namely Morgan Freeman, Denzil Washington and Andre Braugher, but it has to be all the better for the brilliant casting choice of Matthew Broderick as Shaw. This is a young actor who up until that point was probably best known as hacker David Lightman (Wargames (1983) and the infamous Ferris Bueller (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986).
But here he delivers an emotional and thoughtful performance as a man on a mission to both prove himself and build a regiment which will give his men dignity amidst oppression. But the top props must be given to composer James Horner’s score, one of his finest and defiantly his most moving, elevating the film’s tone to that of almost tear jerking.
If ever a score has captured the emotive sentiment of what the director and cast are doing, this is it. Horner has always been one of my favourites, ever since Star Trek’s II (1982) and III (1984), but this was on a new level, with a new sound for him. To me the two styles are somewhat different and both work but this is the most emotive score of Horner’s to date. Why he was not even nominated for a Oscar for this is beyond me.
This is a powerful portrayal of events which have been covered time after time and though I can come out feeling that this is a ten out of ten film, it’s not. The feeling is there but it’s a little baggy and it does try too hard on occasions to tug on the heart-strings and the tone can be a little televisual, but that’s not to take anything away from this. It’s not perfect but it’s right up there with the best and it’s running time is just right, just over two hours. A film like this could very easily have clocked in at three hours.