What happens when a man stands up and says enough is enough? The march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama for voter’s rights is what happens. Ava DuVernay’s Selma takes a look back at this historical march led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) that is nothing short of complex and gut wrenching. Although it was not a full blown biopic of King it captured many of his nuances that tend to get lost when retelling history. Over the years Dr. King has been unfortunately portrayed as a mythical being incapable of expressing rage under the guise of “non violent,” Selma does a great job of breaking free from that trope. What I enjoyed most from the film was that it “proved” MLK was indeed human and completely owned his full range of emotion. There are moments where Martin’s frustration and self doubt resonates so deeply within the audience it forces you to realize his humanity. This film also features King’s wife, Corretta (Carmen Ejogo) more than our history books ever did which was a pleasant surprise.
Fans of historical drama will appreciate Selma’s accuracy and its ability to make the issues of the past feel very current. I would like to add that if you like your historical films where the history is mostly a backdrop for a completely different subplot (i.e. Pearl Harbor) you may feel short changed. Although the movie ends on a good note the optimism feels slightly feigned in light of the most recent cases of police brutality in America. The film is rounded out with good performances from the large assemble cast that includes Tom Wilkinson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alessandro Nivola, Giovanni Ribisi Common, Carmen Ejogo, Lorraine Toussaint, Tim Roth and Oprah Winfrey. Overall Selma is concise, complex, and unfortunately contemporary.
Selma is now playing in select theaters and Nationwide January 9th.