Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Selma

From director Ava DuVernay comes Selma, out now on DVD & Blu-Ray. The film recounts the tumultuous period in 1965 in which Martin Luther King campaigned to secure equal voting rights by way of an epic march in Alabama, changing history forever - we all know the story; it is history, and an important part of it too. And I know what you’re thinking – “oh great, another film about racial inequality”. I know, it’s something of an annual fixture, after films like The Help and 12 Years a Slave. But while racism remains a problem, these films will keep being made. And even if racism ever does become a thing of the past, it will forever be in history and forever be fair game for Hollywood. And again, history is what Selma is. Obviously, it’s not a history lesson. You know what they say; never let the facts get in the way of a good story. But for the most part, Selma is an accurate portrayal of the period.


David Oyelowo is Martin Luther King in Selma. You will forget you’re watching an actor. In Lincoln, although Daniel Day Lewis delivered an exceptional performance - you were very much aware you were watching Daniel Day Lewis. In Selma, you’re not watching someone act. You’re watching someone truly become his character. It’s an absolutely phenomenal performance which was shockingly snubbed in Oscar season – especially when Steve Carell was nominated in the Best Actor category for Foxcatcher, when he was arguably a supporting role. In any case, Oyelowo is bound to go places after this performance. The film is really a vehicle for him, and the film is effectively a character study. As such, the film is all about this performance. 


Good thing too, because narratively the film isn’t perfect. Very few characters in the huge ensemble are given much depth or development, and some areas seem very rushed. That being said, some of the pacing in the first half is rather sluggish at times and I admit, there were times when I looked at my watch. Clocking in at approximately 130 minutes, Selma could’ve lost a few minutes here and there. But the second half was fantastic – especially when the campaign picks up speed and the march begins. I’m not embarrassed to say that I shed tears towards the climax – especially when Fink’s ‘Yesterday Was Hard On All Of Us’ played over archive footage of the actual march. And, I was impressed to see the assassination was not included. This isn’t a complete biopic of King’s life, but rather just 1965. This lends itself to the problem of pacing, though. If Selma was a complete King biopic, the 1965 march would’ve probably taken up 25-30 minutes of screen time. But here, it gets 130.

I don’t want to get too preachy or political, but I feel like I have to say something. In the Oscar-nominated original song ‘Glory’ which plays over the end credits, one line states ‘Selma is now’. While I wouldn’t necessarily go that far – things have improved a lot since then – we still have a way to go. Racism is still a big problem and it’s shocking to consider how many years it’s been around. To quote Rodney King; ‘Can we all get along?’. Maybe someday, people like Martin Luther King’s dreams will come true. It’s unfortunate that it never happens in their lifetimes, but creating complete racial equality is simple - it just requires certain people throwing unnecessary hate aside.


Anyway, Selma is a solid historical drama of a very important period. Whilst perhaps not overly memorable and certainly not perfect, it is a very moving and powerful piece of cinema. David Oyelowo delivers one of the best performances of the year, and again, the film reminds us that even though things still aren’t perfect – we have come a very long way since those dark times.

Selma marches on to a solid 4/5.

★★★★☆

Sam Love


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