Selma – Review

14 Feb

It’s a fact to say that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the most important historical figures of the past 100 years. The victories he won and the lengths he went to to secure those victories are incredible accounts of perseverance and bravery, so it’s kind of strange that Hollywood hasn’t really released any films that show his accomplishments. I mean, how many people saw that 2001 release Boycott? Luckily now we have a movie that not only shows Martin Luther King as an activist and a soldier for equality, but also a human being who faced despicable threats of violence to achieve basic human rights.

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In 1964, the Civil Rights Movement has been going strong, but African Americans are still restricted through stringent laws from being able to freely vote. That combined with a bombing of a church pushes Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo) and other activists to travel to Selma and begin a protest for the right to vote. President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson), after talking with King, feels a reluctant need to help, but feels confined to dealing with other national problems. King then feels that the only way to get Johnson’s attention and the attention of Americans is to push through lines of police, face beatings from the vicious officer, and march to Montgomery, Alabama in protest. As the planning begins, and violence against African Americans intensifies, King begins to fear that this plan may not be feasible and victory impossible to reach.

After thinking about this film, I’ve really come to respect it. As I was watching I kept seeing some major flaws in it that really brought down the entire experience, but they aren’t enough to completely ruin the movie. Most of the problems that I have are with the screenwriting and the pacing. There are many really intense scenes involving the politics that King had to work with but also really moving scenes involving the protests and marches. In between those, however, there are a lot of scenes that just don’t move really well and are filled with melodrama that I just didn’t need. I understand that they were trying to humanize King, but that happened in much better scenes throughout the movie. The scenes that they were trying to humanize him with came of as slow, fake, and overly dramatic.

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So despite there being scenes in this movie, a lot of scenes actually, that didn’t really serve a purpose or weren’t executed well, there were much more powerful scenes to counterbalance them. Selma is one of the more intense movies of 2014, and I say that with the utmost confidence. The terrible thing is that all of this really happened (despite some minor historical accuracies) and it happened in the not too distant past. The first attempted march to Montgomery is actually one of the most startling scenes I’ve seen in recent film making. Director Ava DuVernay did a great job at making history seem to come to life on the screen with cinematography that looks like it could have been ripped right from a moving history book.

I can’t really talk about Selma without mentioning David Oyelowo’s brilliant performance as Martin Luther King. It’s even more impressive considering Oyelowo is a British actor and how well he nails the accent and also King’s way of speaking. The entire cast is all really good, but it really is Oyelowo’s performance that stands out over everyone. Now that I’ve seen the movie, it’s pretty fair to say that he definitely got snubbed at a Best Actor nomination.

Selma may not be my favorite movie of the year or even the best movie of the year, but it is one of the more impressive films of the year. There’s a lot to really love and appreciate with this movie, but there’s also a lot more work that could have been done in trimming up the screenplay and getting rid of some scenes that didn’t really need to be in there. That being said, there are a lot of those unimportant and relatively boring scenes, which almost spoils the entire movie, but luckily there are enough really exceptional and powerful scenes that help work against them. Even though this film is flawed, the history that it presents and how well it presents it should make Selma required viewing.

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