Tuesday, 28 June 2016
American civil war, 1862. Union's Captain Robert Shaw is given an assignment to create the first African-American infantry unit, the 54th Regiment. After intellectual Thomas becomes their first volunteer, hundreds of African-Americans enlist. The training is plagues by difficulties, though: many people are inexperienced, and Shaw has to intervene for his superiors to send them enough boots or to resolve why they are paid less then White soldiers. In South Carolina, Shaw is angered that they are only allowed to sit aside while other units fight. Finally, they are given the assignment to attack Fort Wagner - where they all die.
A film about the 54th Infantry Unit, one of the first official army units consisting entirely of African-Americans in the American civil war, Edward Zwick's "Glory" is, unlike its title, thankfully a very realistic and honest achievement - despite its significant topic, the events are far from glamorised, and least of all idealised. Rather, it a bitter disillusionment of problems in the real world and practise. Despite being trained by the Union, the African-American characters themselves experience crypto-racist remarks among their ranks, which is even evident in their 2nd class treatment (they don't have enough boots, and are paid only 10$ compared to White soldiers who get 13 $), and things do not improve on the battlefield, either, since their commander Robert Shaw is shocked when their first assignment is to commit a war crime of plunder and destruction of civilian homes, since the army does not intend to seriously rely on them in a real combat, as well as being faced with corruption at the highest rank (Shaw's remarks in General Harker's office, where he points out how the later "smuggled tons of cotton to the North, to an unknown buyer"). Denzel Washington gave a very good role as Silas, though the role would have been even better if it had more emotional dimension or if it was just a tiny bit more versatile than just relaying so much on the scene where he is whipped and the viewers find out he was a former slave from the South based on his scars on the back. Morgan Freeman is once again the best among the cast. Maybe the film does indeed over-rely on political correctness and its social issues, yet it avoids pathos and gives a sober, ambitious tragic feel to the story.