By Richard Moore

While the American Civil War was, to most people, a clash between the "good guys" of the North, fighting to do away with the evils of slavery defended by "the bad guys" of the South, to view it that way is to distort the truth.

While a large number of northerners agreed with freeing slaves, many did not, and the decision to do so was as much a political move by President Abraham Lincoln - to help avoid Britain and France from backing the secessionist Southern states - as a genuine piece of social reform.

To further muddy the "good guys" legend, while blacks were set free in the rebel South, those in the North had to wait some time longer for their right to be treated as humans.

The story of Glory is that of the black soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts, the first coloured regiment in the United States army, and their trials and tribulations before not only being accepted as equal men, but also get their chance to prove themselves in battle.

Based on actual incidents and people - in particular the young white colonel of the regiment, Robert Gould Shaw - Glory is a very powerful examination of freed slaves desperately trying to be accepted in a society that has treated them extremely badly and just how far they will travel for such acceptance.

Matthew Broderick (Shaw) and his friend, Major Cabot Forbes (Elwes), not only have to deal with racism against their men from their own side, but they know they face execution if captured leading black troops.

Of the soldiery, Morgan Freeman stands out as the calm older man, Sergeant Major John Rawlins, who keeps the more fiery or easily-led elements under control.

One of the problem characters is the uneducated and angry Trip, who is played vibrantly by Denzel Washington.

The scene where Trip is lashed for desertion is quite outstanding as the actor had to endure the whipping, which stung rather than hurt, until he "felt something''.

Director Edward Zwick didn't think Washington was getting in touch with the loss of dignity and humiliation of the punishment and so a 1000 feet of film was loaded into the camera and the whip hand was not to stop until Denzel "found it".

He eventually discovered the shame of the loss of control and the tears run down his cheek. An extraordinary moment of film.

But then Glory is an extraordinary movie and is one that will appeal to not only those who like war movies, but also those who like character interaction and a good, involving storyline.

The action scenes are spectacular - with thousands of Civil War re-enactors being given the chance to fight on - but then so are the quiet moments of introspection and Zwick shows himself adept at handling both expertly.

Three Oscars were won by Glory. Best supporting actor (Washington), best cinematography and best sound.


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