Review by Lynn resident Steve Duffy –
What makes “Selma” such a great film, besides the fact that it is the first major motion picture that focuses on Dr. Martin Luther King, is that Ava DuVernay, the director, portrays him as the man he was and does not sugarcoat this specific part of his life with a Hollywood twist.
Most films show us how a character achieves their goals, but then fail to show us what it takes to maintain them and move on. This history lesson of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march that directly led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement later that year, is both informative and entertaining.
The film also focuses on the political war that rages between King and President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson). The success of the march from Selma to Montgomery leads to President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
British actor David Oyelowo’s performance as King is brilliant. His balance of respect and leadership, while portraying such a historical icon, is both moving and gratifying. He beautifully captures King’s strengths and weaknesses as a man. This is definitely one of Oyelowo’s finest performances to date.
There are also some great performances from the supporting cast. Carmen Ejogo is outstanding as Coretta Scott King. Oprah’s screen time may be small but she delivers a strong performance as Annie Lee Cooper, a protester, who was denied her right to vote and refused to be silenced.
DuVernay did not shy away from depicting the events of the “Bloody Sunday” march, when activists were attacked by police officers as they tried to cross a bridge outside of Selma. This scene may be hard to watch.
Due to King’s speeches already being licensed to Dreamworks for another film, DuVernay wrote his speeches for the film. She did a great job in capturing the passion and spirit of his words – delivering the same message that he may have conveyed.
The release of “Selma” couldn’t be timelier. In recent months, the country has seen its share of frustrations with events that need more consideration and a touch of humanity. Also, Martin Luther King, Jr. day is fast approaching. This is the perfect time to reflect on the past and remember all of those whose have chosen to take the long road and try to move America forward in the fight for equality for all.
PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including violence, a suggestive moment, and brief strong language
Run Time: 2 hr. 7 min.