Comprising a list of my personal top ten favorite movies required some thoughtful deliberation, but choosing the one movie that to me stands out clearly as my "favorite," required no effort at all.The movie Glory deeply touched me in a profound way that has stood the test of time.
Being of the female gender, I find myself at odds with those who would label this film a "guy flick." Elevated testoserone levels would not enhance my appreciation for this superb movie.Anyone with a reverence for history and a little empathy for the suffering of mankind has the ability to truly appreciate the movie Glory for what it has to offer.
Plot: Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the 25-year-old son of Boston abolitionists, is asked to command the yet unformed all-black 54th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. With initial reluctance, Col. Shaw takes the post with a steadfast determination that these soldiers be trained with the same diligence and afforded the same honors as the white soldiers. Their training and battle experience leads them to their final assault on Fort Wagner in South Carolina, where their heroic bravery is answered with a bitter defeat, though symbolic victory.
A most poignant scene in this movie takes place upon the narrow strip of beach on Morris Island, heavy with the men of the 54th readied for the lead attack on Fort Wagner. There are a few moments during this scene, void of dialogue yet overwhelming in the content of their meaning. As Colonel Shaw (Matthew Broderick) looks out to the magnificent horizon, gulls gracefully fighting the sea breeze over an ocean set in the silver tone of an impending dusk, the soul of a young man is exposed. In that brief moment of vulnerability a message is heard, and you find yourself aching with him; aching for all that he is about to sacrifice as the toll of mans' inhumanity to man. It is a moment that evokes a great sorrow for such loss that would come at the hands of hatred and intolerence. It is a moment that leaves you struggling for some air of comprehension; struggling to breathe in some understanding of how mankind perpetrates such horrors against one another when they are given so much in the nature that surrounds them. And finally, when the Colonel frees his horse and joins the men, the message speaks of the power of conviction and the ability to prevail over ultimate sorrow and fear. This was for me, the defining moment of the movie. The history, the statistics; they have been documented well enough in the history books. It was the humanity of this movie that left an indelible mark upon my soul. It was the soul of this movie that prompted me to learn more about the human beings behind the dates and historical facts. And it is the heart of this movie that inspires an unrelenting search for the abolition of bigotry, hatred and violence.
Glory was so much more than a history lesson or "war flick." It spoke to the heart of the human spirit; it's capacity for courage and compassion, and it's equal capacity for hatred and intolerance. And it strikes me how very little has changed. Each time I watch this movie it provokes some further reflection upon troubled thoughts, and each time I find a bit more consolation. I have been troubled with thoughts that the integrity and bravery of those men in the 54th may have been
callously discarded or exploited by the white Commanding Officers.I have resolved that, no matter the intent of the Commanders in Charge, it does not diminish what the men of the 54th did on that fateful day; the significance of their actions or the level of their courage.I have felt anguish over the fact that this momentous sacrifice has been lying in an unmarked grave beneath the tides of the Atlantic.I am consoled that this unmarked grave has a cenotaph in the movie Glory. I've been deeply concerned that my education did not include any information about the many black men who fought in the Civil War.I take solace in the knowledge that this movie has inspired much student discussion and enlightenment within the general public.It is this kind of thought provoking inspiration that elevates Glory above "war flicks" and history lessons.
Finally, Glory left me with a lasting admiration for the outstanding performances of the entire acting ensemble; most notably those of Matthew Broderick and Denzel Washingon (for which he won an Academy Award.) The music was ethereal, gripping, momentous, somber, and extremely well suited to the film. I don't believe that I will ever tire of viewing it from time to time. For, while the subject matter is tormenting, it offers an insight to human nature that is inspiring, and a lesson that must not be forgotten.