The first film in my first match-up in the first round of the 80s US Bracket!
Screenplay By: Kevin Jarre
Directed By: Edward Zwick
As Glory begins we are given a not so kind look at war. The Battle of Antietam comes across as pointless and senseless, what reason could there possibly be for such violence and bloodshed? Glory spends the next two hours providing reasons for such battles. By the time we reach the Siege of Ft. Wagner the idea of war as senseless has left our minds, not because our minds have been changed, but because we have been given people to care about and have seen why they go to war and thus it is no longer senseless to us.
If the above wasn’t enough of a giveaway, I have been a fan of Glory for many years now. Like most I was first introduced to the film in history class, albeit I was lucky enough to have a history teacher who refused to show the school only PG version and instead treated us to the wonders of the R rated version. His reasoning made perfect sense, “There’s no point in sugarcoating the violence in the film, if I do that then I would be lying to you about not only this movie, but life.” Obviously I don’t know if that’s exactly what he said, but it was something like that. My little brother also is a big fan of Glory and because of this I tend to revisit Glory at least once every year. I didn’t want that coloring my views going into this bracket match-up, but as a fair warning it’s pretty darn hard to be impartial about a film I’ve seen and loved many times.
I could go on and on about the acting of the film, universally excellent, or the music, also universally excellent, or even the cinematography, set design, costumes and battle scenes, once again all universally excellent. But, by this point in time I think many a person has posited on the usual suspects as far as Glory’s strong points are concerned. Rather I’m hoping to delve into a narrative thread I picked up on this viewing of Glory that had never occurred to me in any of my previous travails through this particular movie.
As Glory rolled along I became very interested in where the film was going with its characters. In essence Glory can be distilled down to a series of relationship tests. At the start all of the characters are unsure of one another. Each and every character brings a bit of trepidation to the military camp, for whatever reason they not only have trouble trusting the soldier next to them. Throughout the movie we are given little moments where the characters learn to trust each other. This culminates in the Siege of Ft. Wagner, where they prove themselves to each other, to their enemy and to their nation. It’s as if every moment in the film exists for the characters to test one another, learn and move on to the one ultimate moment at the end when there are the same throughout and trust each other completely.
For as much as I have extolled the virtues of Glory, it isn’t without its faults. The drama between Cary Elwes and Matthew Broderick never sits well with me. Instead of adding to the picture it feels forced and out of place compared to the rest of the drama taking place. But Glory’s biggest flaw comes in the form of the obstacle villains as I like to call them. Whether it is the Quartermaster, Gen. Harker or Col. Montgomery, the internal obstacles put in the place of the 54th come across as one note. They seem to exist only to serve the plot and thus don’t pack the edge that they should.
After so many viewings Glory still holds up as a quality piece of movie making. It’s emotional without overdoing it, understands how to handle melodrama, and features some incredible performances from the supporting cast. There’s a reason why Glory is still shown across the United States in grade school/high school history classes, it’s a powerful film, a well made film and a film worth seeing.