“Glory” is a historical war film about the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the second African regiment in the Union Army during the Civil War. The film stars Matthew Broderick as Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Andre Braugher and Jihmi Kennedy as fictional members of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment.
The 54th was made up of Black soldiers but was led by the white Robert Gould Shaw, played by Broderick. This is because it was believed that Black men wouldn’t make good officers. “Glory” is seen from the eyes of Shaw, who is recovering from the Battle of Antietam, which was the second bloodiest battle of the war. Returning home, he was recruited to lead an all-Black regiment, and he reluctantly accepted the offer.
After this scene, we get a look at the men who become the 54th. Among these men are Silas Trip, played by Washington, a former slave who escaped to the north; John Rawlins, played by Freeman, a gravedigger who we first see in the aftermath of Antietam; Thomas Searles, played by Braugher, an educated freeman and friend to Shaw; and Jupiter Sharts, played by Kennedy, who, like Trip, was an escaped slave, though more optimistic.
I find myself wishing Rawlins and Trip were the protagonists of the film, especially in the scene where Rawlins disciplines Trip. While the acting is fantastic overall, Broderick was the weakest link. There were several moments when I was supposed to be intimidated by Shaw, but because he was played by the same actor who played Ferris Bueller, I couldn’t take him seriously.
When we talk about the Civil War, we usually talk about the evils of slavery, Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation, Grant and Gettysburg, but we rarely talk about the 150,000 Black soldiers who volunteered to fight against the Confederacy.
I am a history major reviewing a historical movie, so I could not, in good faith, end this review without mentioning some inaccuracies. Firstly, the movie depicts most of the 54th as escaped slaves, but in reality, most members were born free. Secondly, there is a scene in which flogging was used to discipline a member of the 54th, but flogging was banned years before the scene would have taken place. Lastly, the movie includes the real life figure of Charles Garrison Harker, but many aspects of his depiction are completely inaccurate, such his rank, age and location at the time.
“Glory” is an excellent film inspired by real events and with great acting, and despite my nitpicks, I fully recommend it to anyone who is curious about the Civil War or just interested in a quieter war movie.