Glory (1989): Memorial Day and What is Forgotten


The reason I chose to review this movie besides the fact that I had never seen it before, but because today is Memorial Day. Memorial today was created to honor the fallen soldiers of the Union and the Confederacy (…Yes, the Confederacy, the group that was fighting to defend and uphold the immoral institution of slavery. I think this is one thing that people forget that should not be forgotten. War is complicated and sometime necessary, slavery is not. It is a clear moral wrong yet historically we still honor many of the people who perpetuated it (this doesn’t apply to all members of the Confederacy but definitely many of them given what the Confederacy’s goal was). How can I honor soldiers who believed and upheld wrongs or choose to commit wrongs today against their fellow man. It is for this reason I use today to honor the victims of war and the honorable soldiers who lived/live right action.

“Glory” is about the first all African American volunteer regiment and their leader Colonel Shaw who is dealing with the conflict within his own regiment and inside the Confederacy during the time of the Civil War. Here is my assessment:

The Pros: The Actors – Denzel Washington steals it, with Morgan Freeman taking a close second. His raw emotion and reality behind his eyes of the character (former slave) he is playing…there is a reason Denzel Washington is one of my favorite actors. This movie was living proof of that. Charles Elwas of “Princess Bride” fame also does a great job contrasting the order of Matthew Broderick’s Colonel Shaw.

The Message: The movie achieves a few things with it’s themes and messages such as the reality of slavery and how immoral it is (largely through Trip’s (Denzel Washington’s character’s) eyes, the horror of war (you see the blood and heads exploding), racism (both the Confederacy’s overt racism through Slavery, and member’s of the Union and how they saw African Americans as less than them and kept resources from them as well as paying them less). There is also a theme of solidarity too, for example when Colonel Show chooses for himself and the white soldiers to go without pay because of how little the black soldiers were getting paid. This movie also avoids turning Shaw into a White Savior which I appreciate e a lot. He isn’t perfect and he grows and much of the movie is more focused on his men than him.

The song before battle:

The Battles: Are really well done. There are consequences to each one and it shows the consequences of weapons and what they do to bodies. It doesn’t hold back, which is appreciated.

Okay: The Historicity – The movie is mixed in regards to how accurate it is in regards to history. The changing views of race by the Union soldiers is accurate but the fact that in the movie they were presented as former slaves isn’t accurate – most were free men from Massachusetts. Here is a good summary of the issues of history in the film:

The music: Beyond the song for battle it was okay, just not super memorable, not a soundtrack I would seek out.

The Character Arcs: The character arcs could have been handled better. Trip’s and Shaw’s arc were great, but a lot of the characters either didn’t have a character arc or existed as archetypes (The wise man, the rebel, the academic, the corrupt officer, the racist officer) to serve a role for Trip and Shaw. This is okay, but it doesn’t make for great storytelling.

The movie was good, and Memorial Day can be a good thing…but we cannot allow ourselves to forget the wrongs done by our nation, ancestors and done during war. By ignoring or forgetting we do a dishonor to all the good men and women who do live or lived with virtue and the real struggle people faced, like those in this film.

The Ending: Without giving away spoilers it sticks to the message, but for a movie with so much hope in it at times I think any sweet at all would have made it better, showing that someone connected to these people knew them…and remembered.

I would recommend this film, it is a story that needed to be told and still does to this day.

I would give this movie 8 / 10.

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