Selma

Posted: January 26, 2015 in Movie Reviews

David Oyelowo_Selma

“Freedom” is a loosely interpreted word. We talk about America as a nation of freedom, a land where all men have equal rights. We look at men throughout history who were liberators—–men like Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglas, and William Wilberforce—–who sought the freedom of mankind from physical bondage, whilst others—–William Wallace, T.E. Lawrence, and George Washington—–sought freedom from the tyrannical oppression of higher power. The one commonality all these men had: greatness. Oh surely these men had their fair share of faults, but it was their actions that propelled them to legendary, household-name status. But while William Wallace may require a film like Braveheart or T.E. Lawrence may need Lawrence of Arabia to solidify their fame, Martin Luther King Jr. is a man whose renown needs no visual aid.

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Summary: (No spoilers)
In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo—–Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Lincoln) seeks the right to Negro voting in the state of Alabama. Though opposition to this movement is fierce, Dr. King pursues peaceful negotiation with President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson—–Batman Begins, The Patriot) instead of retaliation with violence. But when the president drags his heels on the issue, Dr. King rallies his followers on a march in Selma, Alabama. Many are beaten and some killed in their pursuit of equality, as a nation still clinging to old dogma must learn to cope with radical changes.

Also starring: Oprah Winfrey, Tim Roth, Carmen Ejogo, Giovanni Ribisi, Dylan Baker, Wendell Pierce, Stephen James, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Martin Sheen.

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Selma is a film structurally akin to Lincoln in the sense that it focuses strictly on one particular moment in history. The afore-mentioned Abe Lincoln biopic is not a step-by-step biography about the man’s entire life, but rather a film dealing with a critical period in time. Selma is the same. We know Dr. King by his actions during the Civil Rights Movement, not by his actions when he was young.

This period in history was a harsh, brutal time when hatred was rampant in our nation. Many were strong proponents of the “equal but separate” mindset, and found the thought of association with the Negro community to be deplorable. It was through the patient and peaceful influence of men like Dr. King that people were finally able to see how hypocritically dogmatic America was. Selma dutifully captures the brutality that ensued during this time, not sugarcoating how appalling it all was for black Americans.

David Oyelowo, Colman Domingo, Andre Holland_Selma

British actor David Oyelowo wonderfully captures the essence of his character. He doesn’t embellish him, nor does he over-glorify him. He merely portrays a man heartbroken by the animosity he’s surrounded by, a man who seeks to correct this century-long way of thinking. A man who, like all, was flawed. It’s in the subtlety of the character that Oyelowo’s performance shines through. Though he regrettably isn’t given ample opportunity to properly display his talent, he does manage to instill a moving sense of bravado into what little amount of show he’s given. All other actors perform on an excellent level, instilling passion and dedication into their characters.

In a nutshell:

With the recent events in Ferguson fresh in our minds, this is exactly the kind of film America needs right now: the kind of film that shows how all too easily history can and will repeat itself, the kind of film that shows that all men—–as clichéd as it sounds—–are indeed created equal by their Creator. As Euclid’s law of mathematics states, “Things which equal the same thing also equal each other”. How easy it is to forget and throw away what men have died to attain. Though the famous “I have a dream” speech is nowhere to be found, Selma is a stark reminder of how America can become once again if we remain uneducated to what Dr. Martin Luther King so ardently believed in.

8 stars

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