Glory (1989)

(On Cable TV, May 2017) Blending a war movie with judicious social progressivism seems almost de rigueur these days, but I gather that it wasn’t as obvious in 1989, when Glory came out with a relatively groundbreaking depiction of an African-American battalion during the Civil War. As you’d expect from this kind of hybridization, Glory spends its time either indulging in the usual plot mechanics of a military training story, in-between describing the plight of its heroes on social issues. Nearly thirty years later, it’s not quite so innovative, but it’s made well enough to remain mildly interesting. (I suspect that, like all movies specifically dedicated to American social history, it’s going to be more relevant to American viewers.) Matthew Broderick stars as the military commander of the group, but the film’s most interesting performance goes to Denzel Washington, as a surly but ultimately honourable black soldier; Morgan Freeman and Andre Braugher are also featured prominently. The familiarity of the film can lull viewers in a comfortable daze, but the finale of the film does much to elevate it—spent in sand rather than the usual open field battlegrounds of Civil War movies, it’s also unusually bleak in how it adheres to historical fact. Glory may not be fun or fresh especially today, but it’s solid and respectable.

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