Review: “The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy.”
Selma is a perfect example of what can happen when great acting meets amazing direction. In a time where it seems like race and terror are all that fill up the news headlines, a movie like Selma couldn’t have come at a better time. This biopic of Martin Luther kings campaign to end voter bias in Alabama for the African American community gives you a look at the historical event from all angels. Taking a further look into history, we learn about not just the political obstacles and negotiations King had to navigate in order to realize his agenda – including compromises within his own political, racial, and religious affiliations in order to achieve a greater good. Probing even deeper, we learn more about the toll that being an icon of Civil Rights took on Martin the man, his family and marriage.
Right from the opening scene where four little girls fall victim to a shameless act of hate, this movie slaps you in the face, and you know then that Director Ava DuVernay is going to hold nothing back. In the days after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) turns his attention to protecting and reaffirming voting rights for blacks who have been systematically disenfranchised and bullied, specifically in the South. During meetings with President Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson), it becomes clear to King that the president is unwilling to make the issue a political priority.Therefor King’s campaign moves to Selma, Alabama, and the historic march to the state capital in Birmingham. 90% of the film takes place in Selma, Alabama, showing the struggles of which Dr. King and his associates had to deal with in order to rally support, fend of a town sheriff/mayor with supreme bias, fight legislation with the president in Washington, while trying to keep his family and wife happy.
Many historic events have been remade into film throughout the years especially as of recent(The Butler, 42, Lincoln, ect) but what this movie does right, for me, is focus on one specific event and moment in history, allowing you to really get an inside look at all aspects of what was really going on. Writer Paul Webb and DuVernay did and excellent job making the audience feel connected to the story and characters dispersed throughout the film. Major scenes of development, action and tension are spliced nicely with riveting scenes of conversation, as well as quiet, reflective moments in which we pierce the veil of history to get more intimate looks at King, his wife, Johnson or other figures involved in the issue.
There where many great moments and scenes in this movie, the cast was sprinkled with a few big names but mostly fairly new faces or unknowns. However, out of all of the performances given in this film none stood out more then the performance gave by David Oyelowo. Oyelowo (The Butler) triumphantly takes on the role of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and truly makes the iconic figure his own. His delivery and mannerisms don’t just “mimic” that of Dr. King but truly make you feel as if you are watching the man himself. Now, Oyelowo wasn’t the only one who gave a great performance, Tom Wilkinson also gives a fascinating portrayal of Lyndon B. Johnson. Showing both the good and bad sides of his stance on voter rights and the struggle to please the party and the people from which he was elected.
All in all, It’s a movie, yes but this stirring account of the fight to end racially motivated voting difficulty in the South is more than anything, a much-needed reality check for a country already sliding backwards in terms of equality. White or black, brown or red, this movie is not just a great history lesson but an amazing biopic to remind us of how far we’ve come and how much further we need to go. This movie was one of the best I’ve seen in a long time and one that I know everyone will enjoy and for that I give it a 9/10.