A historically fascinating picture about the Civil War’s 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, made up of black enlisted men and headed by a white colonel named Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick). Directed by TV award winner Edward Zwick (thirtysomething, Special Bulletin) from a script by Kevin Jarre (Rambo: First Blood Part II), the film suffers from some of the war-movie and liberal-movie cliches that one might expect from filmmakers with these credits, but the cast—which also includes Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, and Cary Elwes—is strong, and the training and battle scenes seem carefully researched. Lurking somewhere in the background of this true-life tale, derived from two books (Lincoln Kirstein’s Lay This Laurel and Peter Burchard’s One Gallant Rush) and the letters of Robert Gould Shaw, 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.