Sunday, January 11, 2015

Review: Selma (2014)

                  'Selma': Not Just Another Racial Movie

        I think that this day has finally come. I think that we finally got a movie about racism that isn't yet another "white savior" movie. Thank sweet merciful Christ!

        Selma follows the real-life story of MLK (David Oyelowo) who, over the course of three months in 1965, tried to fight for voting rights for black people in order to bring equality by marching in non-violent protests. As he tried to get help from President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson), King, along with the aide of several other people of color and eventually whites, rallies a treacherous march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery in order to achieve his goal.

      I'll start off with the performancd by David Oyelowo as MLK. Even when I saw the trailer, I kept forgetting that I was watching an actor and saw Oyelowo become MLK. He brilliantly captures King's diction, composure, and even, through masterful subtlety, showcases his doubts about his mission. I am very glad that, with this role, David Oyelowo is now getting the acclaim that he greatfully deserves. I would also like to acknowledge Tom Wilkinson for his portrayal of the stressed out president Lyndon Johnson, who you seem to hate yet you understand his faults. Speaking of a character you hate, Tim Roth is a commanding yet slithery presence as racist governor of Alabama George Wallace. All three actors do an amazing job with their respective roles.

      Next, I'll get into Ava Duvernay's direction. As I said in my opening statement, we finally have a racial movie in which it isn't "whitey saves all" and I feel that it is mostly thanks to Ava DuVernay who helped put it together. Plus, when blacks and whites do finally come together, it is out of the natural flow of the film and without plot convenience. So, DuVernay gave us a film that showed how blacks had to fend for themselves without it being too patronizing. One thing that I just noticed was how they had a much smaller march at first going on in Selma, then when the next march took place, it got bigger, then the next one grew, and so on. So, it seemed that they were trying to create a buildup to the final big march and I thought that was an interesting tactic to show how their voice was growing larger and larger.

       Now, I'll admit that as the film began, it got pretty slow. But things eventually started to pick up once the very first march began and it started to have more steam. Now only that, but there are some big names that pop up, like Martin Sheen, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Oprah, who aren't given a whole lot to do. Their characters did have a purpose, but if they were replaced by unknowns, it wouldn't have been any different.

       Overall, Selma is a well-realized racial biopic about being heard even when you have trouble using your actual voice. The performance by David Oyelowo is an absolute masterclass and the direction by Ava DuVernay is masterful. I may have had problems with the pacing and how some big names aren't utilized too much. But, it is a very well-done film and not only tells the story of a real-life famous figure, but even demonstrates our struggles today.

       Would I Recommend It?:
       I would say give it a watch. Even though we already have had plenty of racial films these days, I would still say give this one a chance.

Grade: B+