A historically fascinating 1990 picture about the Civil War’s 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, made up of black enlisted men and headed by a white colonel (Matthew Broderick). Directed by TV award winner Edward Zwick (Thirtysomething) from a script by Kevin Jarre (Rambo: First Blood Part II), the film suffers from some of the war- and liberal-movie cliches one might expect from filmmakers with these credits, but the castwhich also includes Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, and Cary Elwesis strong, and the training and battle scenes seem carefully researched. Lurking somewhere in the background of this true-life tale is some caustic irony about the outcome of the black soldiers’ desire to fight that the movie never confronts directly enough. But this is still a pretty watchable and always interesting period film, well photographed by English cinematographer Freddie Francis. 122 min. (JR)

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