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GLORY (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 3, 2009 by  



“‘A powerful Civil War film that introduced us to the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment and how important a role that African-Americans had in the Civil War.  Epic, well-written, well-scored and overall showing us the brutality of war but a soldier’s determination for their fight for freedom, ‘GLORY’ is a film worth owning and having in your Blu-ray collection!”

Images courtesy of © 1989 TriStar Pictures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: GLORY

DURATION: 122 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English and French Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

RATED: R (for Violence)

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Home Pictures Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: June 2, 2009

Directed by Edward Zwick

Based on the original letters of Robert Gould Shaw, the book “Lay This Laurel” by Lincoln Kirstein and “One Gallant Rush” by Peter Burchard

Screenplay by Kevin Jarre

Produced by Freddie Fields

Co-Produced by Pieter Jan Brugge

Associate Produced by Sarah Caplan, P.K. Fields, Ray Herbeck, Jr.

Music by James Horner

Director of Photography: Freddie Francis

Edited by Steven Rosenblum

Casting by Mary Colquhoun

Production Design by Norman Garwood

Art Direction by Keith Pain and Dan Webster

Set Decoration by Garrett Lewis

Costume Design by Francine Jamison-Tanchuk

Starring:

Matthew Broderick as Col. Robert Gould Shaw

Denzel Washington as Pvt. Trip

Cary Elwes as Major Cabot Forbes

Morgan Freeman as Sgt. Maj. John rawlins

Jihmi Kennedy as Pvt. Jupiter Sharts

Andrew Braugher as Cpl. Thomas Searles

John Finn as Sgt. Maj. Mulcahy

Donovan Leitch as Capt. Charles Fessenden Morse

JD Cullum as Henry Sturgis Russell

The heart-stopping story of the first black regiment to fight for the North in the Civil War, GLORY stars Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes and Morgan Freeman. Broderick and Elwes are the idealistic young Bostonians who lead the regiment; Freeman is the inspirational sergeant who unites the troops; and Denzel Washington, in an Oscar(r) – winning performance (1989, Best Supporting Actor), is the runaway slave who embodies the indomitable spirit of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts.

In 1989, “GLORY” would become an important movie that introduced many Americans unfamiliar to Civil War history but most of all, to show viewers the impact African Americans had in the role of fighting for the Union.

The film would focus on Col. Robert Gould Shaw, the letters he sent to his family and him leading a group of African American men who volunteered to fight against the Confederate Army.  This group is known as the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.  The film is also adapted from Lincoln Kirstein’s book “Lay this Laurel” and Peter Burchard’s book “One Gallant Rush”.

“GLORY” was directed by Edward Zwick (“DEFIANCE”, “Blood Diamond”, “The Last Samurai” and “The Siege”), screenplay by Kevin Jarre (“The Mummy”and “Rambo: First Blood Part II”), music by James Horner “Enemy at the Gates”, “A Beautiful Mind” and “Troy”) and cinematography by Freddie Francis (“Dune”, “Clara’s Heart” and “Cape Fear”).

The film would star major talents Matthew Broderick (“WarGames”, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “Godzilla” and “Inspector Gadget”), Denzel Washington (“American Gangster”, “Training Day”, “Man on Fire” and “Remember the Titans”), Morgan Freeman (“The Dark Knight”, “Wanted”, “Million Dollar Baby” and “Deep Impact”), Cary Elwes (“The Princess Bride”, “Twister”, “Liar Liar” and “Days of Thunder”) and Andre Braugher (“Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”, “Poseidon”, “Frequency” and “Primal Fear”).

The film would receive five Academy Award nominations and win three for “Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Denzel Washington”, “Best Cinematography – Freddie Francis” and “Best Sound Mixing”.

The film begins with Union Captain Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) who is fighting at the Battle of Antietam (this took place in Sept. 17 1862).  The Union troops are literally obliterated but Shaw who is grazed, collapses near a dead soldier.  He is awakened by John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman) who is digging graves for the deceased soldiers.

Captain Shaw is held with the highest regard for surviving the Battle of Antietam and is appointed commander of the first Black regiment, the 54th Massachusetts and then promoted to Colonel.  Robert Gould Shaw who has come from a distinguished family (Shaw was a Harvard graduated) and he himself supports the abolition of slavery takes the job and his friend Major Cabot Forbes (Cary Elwes) is his executive officer.

The two go on to recruit Black soldiers which include both men’s good friend, Thomas Searles (Andre Braugher).  Thomas is an educated and literate man that was born a free man and his father a free man in the North who wants to serve in the first regiment for Black men to fight in the war.   Of course, Thomas who has had a different upbringing seems out of place with other soldiers who were former escaped slaves from the South and are a bit hard on him.  But most of all, Thomas good friend Robert is especially hard on him.   This leads to problems between both friends Col. Shaw and Major Forbes, as he takes issue with how strict Shaw is on his men and also their good friend Thomas who has problems adjusting to military life.

But unlike Major Forbes, Col. Shaw has been on the battlefield to fight and knows of how deadly war is and having nearly everyone around him killed.  So, Shaw is determined to make sure everyone is ready for battle, even if it means being strict and disciplined to the men including his friends.

Sgt. Maj. Mulcahy (John Finn) is the person Col. Shaw believes in and a man who must train the 54th  Massachusetts in how to shoot a rifle, use a bayonet and be prepared for war.

John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman) is a man that Col. Shaw trusts.  Shaw wants Rawlins to be the voice of his men and to share with him any concerns that they have but also to give his men the confidence of their role.

Meanwhile Pvt. Trip (Denzel Washington) is the most outspoken of the bunch.  Fighting for the pride of the Black men and not wanting himself or the men to be treated any lower but his actions tend to be rebellious and gets him into trouble at times.

But for me to explain any further about the film would spoil too much as “GLORY” is a film that must be watched to understand the challenges these men faced during that time.

Challenges such as Col. Shaw making sure his men get the equipment they need to fight in battle, the challenges of Black soldiers not being treated as equal as the White soldiers and not receiving the same amount of pay.  There are many challenges that these men had to face as shown in the movie but alongside the challenges, we see the adversity, the determination and the unity these men feel together as the march to glory and be the lead regiment that would spearhead the assault on Fort Wagner.

“GLORY” is a powerful experience of human courage but the glory of fighting a war but also fighting for a cause.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“GLORY” is presented on 1080p High Definition (aspect ratio of 1:85:1).   The film manages to capture the haziness of war due to the smoke in the battlefield and the colors are not featured as vibrant as most of the settings are in blues and browns but you will see reds on the flag and the flares, amber colors from the gunfire and the greens of the grass and tress, but I believe that the limit of color was the Director Edward Zwick’s purpose.  Zwick is director that has made several films to capture the dreariness of war as he did nearly a decade later with “ENEMY AT THE GATES”, he manages to capture the look of the battlefield in 1989 with “GLORY”.

The film does have quite a bit of grain that comes clear due to its High Definition transfer but I would rather have grain than overly used digital noise reduction that would make the characters look waxy and the picture quality as soft.  In fact, one thing you will notice with “GLORY” is you see quite a bit of detail of the actors, their surroundings but also objects such as shovels, rifles, clothing, etc.  But overall, the picture quality is solid.

As for the audio, the film is featured in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (also in French, Portuguese in Dolby True HD 5.1 and Spanish 5.1) and the lossless soundtrack manages to capture the many explosions on the battlefield.  But what captures your attention when it comes to sound is James Horner’s musical score.  The music sets the tone of the film especially during the final battle.  Dialogue is clear and very clean and many of the scenes during the battles where artillery, gun fire and people yelling (even those yelling from a far distance) can be heard.    There were scenes that do utilize the rear channels effectively and I believe there were some scenes where explosions took advantage of some low frequency booms on the subwoofer.  Overall, “GLORY” receives its best audio presentation compared to its original DVD counterpart.

As for subtitles, the film is presented in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“GLORY” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary by Director Edward Zwick – Edward Zwick is known for his war films from “GLORY”, “Enemy at the Gates” and “The Last Samurai” and one thing that I enjoy about his commentaries is that he really gets into the technical goals and explain the difficult scenes.  “GLORY” features just that as he really goes into detail of the filming techniques used on the film.  Such as trying to drown out the blue skies with smoke, working with the talent, the staff, James Horner for the music and tidbits such as not having enough money to hire more stuntmen, so the stuntmen trained the extras on several scenes.  Also, how challenging it was for Morgan Freeman to have to run countless times especially uphill to having horses that were trained to fall.  A very informative commentary.
  • Virtual Battlefield – Civil War Guide Map – This was actually pretty good.  By using your remote, you can learn about certain battles from the Civil War with photography and text information.  But some have video commentary by Civil War historians which was quite informative.
  • The Voices of Glory – (11:16) This features letters from the Civil War written by actual soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and giving a voice to the men who fought in the various battles including the battle at Fort Wagner. Featured in Standard Definition.
  • Documentary: The True Story of Glory Continues Narrated by Morgan Freeman – (45:18) A documentary featuring the factual information of the soldiers that fought during the war and were members of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry with additional detail on Col. Robert Gould Shaw.  Also, the coverage on the Civil War re-enactments that are ongoing today and an actual re-burial of soldiers.  A documentary that is very informative and you learn about other names that were instrumental during the battle against the Confederate Army at Fort Wagner.  Featured in Standard Definition.
  • Original Theatrical Making-of Featurette – (7:35) Featured in Standard Definition, this is the original featurette with interviews with the talent and Director Edward Zwick.  The featurette has a few behind-the-scenes footage from the film.
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary – There is commentary by Director Edward Zwick on two scenes.  For The Applepicker (3:03), a scene which revolves around Pvt. Trip making his first kill.  The second and final deleted scene is one that Zwick calls one of his worst and glad it was cut from the film.  The scene is titled “Crisis of Conscience” (2:35) which is a scene involving both Col. Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) and Major Cabot Forbes (Cary Elwes).

For those who owned the two-disc special edition DVD release of “GLORY”, you may not want to ditch your DVD just yet as the “Picture-in-Picture Video Commentary featuring Ed Zwick, Morgan Freeman & Matthew Broderick” is not included on this Blu-ray disc.  Nor are the scene selections on the Blu-ray sporting any motion.

“GLORY” is a powerful war film that shows an epic depiction of the battles that have taken place at that time.  Powerful performances from Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington and Andre Braugher, I was in awe of how epicly enormous this film was from start to finish.

I really enjoyed “GLORY” for its storyline but also being educated about a part of Civil War that many people are probably not familiar with.

In fact, Director Edward Zwick talked about in the commentary of going to Harvard University and living in Boston and never knowing the significance of the Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment on the Boston Common.  And how he felt that this film not only was a positive for the people who worked on the film, great for his career but mostly for how significant the film is used by teachers using “Glory” as a tool to teach about the Civil War.

The film definitely made me interested in learning more about the war but also key figures which include Colonel Shaw and American abolitionist Frederick Douglass.  But the film also opened my eyes at the time of how soldier placement truly was.  This is very interesting because these people stood probably less than a hundred yards from each other before they shot at each other.  Where forts had the use of cannonballs and artillery for long distance destruction, foot soldiers were just really close to each other and had to constantly reload their rifles.  And watching the final battle and in a way, oncoming military groups were like sitting ducks.  The military tactics of the time made me realize why the Civil War had the most number of deaths compared to Americans killed in World War I, II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined.

Of course, the film and the actual history have some differences and its important to note that the only major character from the film’s regiment that truly existed was Col. Robert Gould Shaw but the challenges that the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry faced during that time was quite real.  The combat role that African-Americans played in Civil War very much real.  The factual events, especially details that have come out right after the film was released is documented on “The True Story Continues” documentary which is included on the Blu-ray.

Again, for those who own the 2-disc DVD Special Edition released back in 2007 and wonder if its worth the double dip.  For picture and audio quality, my answer is yes but I highly recommend not to get rid of the DVD as the “Picture-in-Picture Video Commentary featuring Ed Zwick, Morgan Freeman & Matthew Broderick” is not included on this Blu-ray release.  Personally, I think people would have loved to hear insight from both Freeman and Broderick about working on this film.  So, I’m a bit surprised it was not included on this Blu-ray release.

But nevertheless, “GLORY” is still a solid Blu-ray release.  The HD transfer definitely gives the viewer more detail and makes the battlefield come alive.  It’s a powerful film and definitely worth owning and having in your Blu-ray collection.






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