Glory Blu-ray Review
Although stippled with grain, somewhat soft and lacking in the usual hi-def pizazz, Glory looks superb on Blu-ray. Zwick's original 1.85:1 aspect has a look and a texture that seems, to me, to be totally authentic and very cinematic. Those expecting a crisp, sharp image will have to look elsewhere, but those who crave an honest, unprocessed picture should be enthralled by the presentation of this 1989 movie. I can't see the effects of undue DNR anywhere in this MPEG-4 encoded picture, and edge enhancement is certainly minimal.
Colours are better than I have seen them before. The reds and blues of flags, and the flames of the burning town, the garish uniforms of the Zouaves down on the beach and the scarlet piping and sashes on some of the Confederates are quite vividly struck. The blues of our boys' attire is natural-looking and modest. Muzzle-flashes and explosions don't leap from the screen, but they aren't meant to. They are undeniably sharper and bolder than seen previously, but they are contained within an image that intends for them to be submerged in grey palls of smoke and the haze of battle. Blood and the surreal red and purple flares that sail overhead during the night-time phase of the assault on the fort bring some livid life to the film, and the areas that are lit up by such illumination look convincingly brightened. A great little double-whammy is the cut from the iconic sight of a Confederate watchtower all ablaze to a white Union officer clutching his face in agony as vibrant gore streams down it. The greenery of the fields of Antietam is fetching, especially compared to the chaos that rages over them. Skin-tones are bruised and ruddied where necessary, but authentically un-Hollywoodised for the most part.
Depth isn't the greatest on show, but it is perfectly respectable just the same. Long lines of marching troops have a grandeur to them and bring some dimensionality to the image. But the charge, itself, and many other shots and sequences seem to appear purposely flattened and a little photographic, as if mimicking the famed Civil War pictures that, no doubt, helped inspire the look of the film. And you cannot deny that detail is better than it has ever been on SD versions of the movie. Though not amazing in its clarity, there is certainly a lot more on show. Facial texture, the material of tunics, the engravings on muskets, belts, badges and insignia all have hitherto unseen details brought to light.
Overall, Glory looks great in this 1080p makeover. The film varies from earthy to bright and colourful, but the grain provides that all-important cinematic quality that lends the image integrity and atmosphere.
Once again, Tri-Star have been honest and respectful towards Glory with regards to its audio transfer as well. It may be a war film, but this Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track won't exactly disturb the neighbours or have you glancing over your shoulder to see if Johnny Reb is creeping up on you.
Bombast is certainly there - I mean the sub will help pummel the deck with canon-shot and the speakers will crackle with the whiz and pop of percussion weapons - but the overall effect is primarily a frontal attack. The battles incorporate lots of screams, gunshots and explosions and the track will not be found wanting in terms of aural spectacle, but this is not the most directional or aggressive sound-design that you will have heard. Oh, having said that, there is the moment when Shaw discharges his pistol close to the head of the stuttering Jupiter Sharts down on the firing range that packs a ballistic wallop. But by far the most emphatic feature that this TrueHD track enhances is James Horner's soul-searing score - and this is surely a welcome asset. Instrumentation is keenly discernible. The saintly voices of The Harlem Boy's Choir simply soar. The use of bells and chimes is clearly heard and they sure help make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck when that final charge gets underway.
You won't have a problem with the dialogue. Speeches, grand statements and rallying calls have weight and positioning within the mix, and the quieter moments of reflection, narration, intimate exchanges in the camp or enforced etiquette during social gatherings or official military business have clarity and variety. Ambience, such as a rainstorm, the clattering of silverware, the fixing of bayonets, the trudging of boots through soil, dirt or mud and the rattling of wagons, saddles and equipment are cleanly reproduced and lend some genuinely atmospheric scene-setting.
The surrounds play their part, but they don't really provide much to discuss here, I'm afraid. They carry action and gunfire, screams and yells and add weight to the overall sonic scheme of things, yet there is nothing that stands out from the atmospheric wall of generalised sound.
Glory's TrueHD is noticeably stronger and more dramatically charged than the previous DD 5.1 track, that's for certain. You should have little to complain about with this lossless presentation - it adds no bogus surround shenanigans and sounds as stirring as it ever did.
Edward Zwick kicks this package off with a terrific commentary that wastes no time in getting to the crux of what drove him to the project and how committed he was to getting it to look, sound and feel right. It was an important story that needed to be told and Zwick is honest about the choices he made and the people that he assembled for the task. Full of anecdotes and experiences - from marshalling hundreds of extras to the bodyclock-shunting of endless day and night shooting - he is highly informative and engaging, despite having one of those thick, soft voices that, under other circumstances, would be perfect for lulling you to sleep. I like the way that he felt compelled to cut a shot from the beautiful sequence when Shaw gazes out to sea because dolphins suddenly appeared, rendering the moment too impossibly moving and almost Disney-esque!
A Blu-ray exclusive comes in the form of an Interactive Battlefield Map and timeline for the 54th's campaign. Pretty straight-forward, folks, and worth a look.
Voices Of Glory is an 11-minute featurette that focusses on the letter writing campaign of the genuine soldiers of the 54th to get themselves equal pay and conditions as their white counterparts in the Union Army. Intercut with scenes from the film and scored with Horner's music, we have a historian leading the way and several actors reading out exracts from the letters. What is remarkable about the letters is how wonderfully eloquent and moving they are. It is a common trait of soldiers from much earlier conflicts - ie, pre-email - that their letter-writing skills were peerless (the product of a more articulate and refined time, usually), but the theme of these transcripts is borne with such dignity and grace that it is genuinely humbling to hear them read aloud.
The True Story Continues documentary runs for forty-five minutes and is a detailed and comprehensive study of the campaign that the 54th Massachusetts Regt. fought, going from their idealistic beginnings, through their courageous fighting at Fort Wagner and their subsequent battles, their eventual victory to win equal pay and how they are still remembered and celebrated by a staunch re-enactment society today, who strive to keep their values alive. Narrated by Morgan Freeman and directed by Lucasfilm's Ben Burtt, the doc does an extremely good job of recounting the regiment's history with fact, quoted anecdote from speech and written letter, copious illustrations, maps and photographs and even plentiful footage of some pretty awesome battle mock-ups with hundreds of participants. What is slightly amusing is the fact that whenever footage from Glory is used, it never shows us any of the main stars at all. An excellent history lesson, folks, that is told with precision, heart and reverence.
Then we get The Making Of Glory, which is the original Tri-Star promo-piece from 1989. Lasting for only seven minutes, this does exactly what you expect it to do - celebrate the making of the movie and try to ensure that you want to pay to go and see it. To be fair, though, it does it well. Vintage puff-pastry it may be, but it lets us hear from all the main players in the cast, the director, the producer, the stunt-co-ordinator and the guy who drafted-in all those re-enactors and it sure sells the film. Lots of footage and some worthy statements from Broderick, Washington and Freeman carry it.
A couple of Deleted Scenes - The Apple Picker and Crisis Of Conscience - are presented with an optional commentary from Zwick regarding their excision and a cluster of BD previews and trailers round-out what is a solid package from Tri-Star. Personally, I would have loved to have heard more from the stars of the film, perhaps looking back at what they experienced whilst making this picture in a retrospective, but this selection still offers firm entertainment and possibly does something even better by respecting the truth of the story and paying homage to the historical 54th instead.
BD-Live gubbins are also promised.
Glory can't help but be sentimental. Regardless of how mythical Zwick likes to paint his drama, the story itself is structured so that your heart is unavoidably entwined around the plight of the characters, and the overall message of courage and spirit in the face of oppression and, ultimately, overwhelming odds is unashamedly hammered home. Broderick is a strange choice for the lead role, but he defies initial impressions and gets over a lot of the potential mawkishness with a recognition of his own inexperience that actually helps embed his emotionally struggling commander with realism and empathy. Washington more than delivers with a part that is surprisingly, and wisely, underwritten, and once again, as with Broderick's Shaw, this only seems to make his warrior-slave far more credible in the process. Freeman is typically excellent, but it does become a standard for his own reliability in supporting roles, and possibly the last time, before Se7en and Unforgiven, that he would actually resonate beyond the script and the screen.
Ed Zwick's historical re-evaluation passes muster on Blu-ray, too. The picture is unmolested by prejudicial DNR, and if the image looks flat and somewhat murky, then you can rest assured that this is precisely how it is meant to look. The TrueHD track won't win any awards, but it does its job and holds its own with James Horner's breath-snatching score taking the aural honours. And with a roster of extra features that seeks to pay due respect to the real story behind the film, this is a fittingly glorious release of the critically lauded production. Zwick's sterling commentary is the icing on the cake.
Excellent. Don't storm a fort without a copy!
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.95
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