Much like '12 Years a Slave' last year, 'Selma' is a movie about the hardships that African-Americans have endured over the years in America. This is a powerful film and one that is a different than you'd think about a movie featuring the start of Martin Luther King's historical revolution in the United States. 'Selma' though, is a film that plays out more like a well written and acted biopic you might see on the History Channel, than a film that you'd have a bucket of popcorn and a soda with. David Oyelowo leads a nice cast, in a film that's going to get a ton of talk because of the seriousness of the movement he sparked.
'Selma' follows the story of Martin Luther King (Oyelowo) after he accepts the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. We are shown a church where four African American girls are killed due to a bomb. In Selma, Alabama, an elderly lady, Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey), attempts to register to vote, but is turned away cause of her race. King attempts to persuade President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) to work on legislation to allow all blacks to be able to vote unhindered, but Johnson has other projects. King then travels to Selma with Ralph Abernathy, Andrew Young, James Orange, and Diane Nash (Coleman Domingo, Andre Holland, Omar Dorsey ad Tessa Thompson) to meet with SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) activists in the area. The rift between King, president Johnson and local (racist) residents, beings to thicken. King decides that a march, from Selma to Alabama's state capitol, might be just what the US needs. So the country can see how African Americans are really being treated.
This is a heavy film, because the use of human to human violence is brutal. It gets the point across that these type thing happened to African Americans during that time period and for decades before all this too. Brutality and realism will only get you so far. The acting, led by David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson and Tim Roth was a great look into the minds of powerful men at the time. David Oyelowo plays Dr. King beautifully and we see a full range of emotion out of him. From the highs of the Nobel Prize, to the lows of the government testing his marriage. We see all sides of King. Tom Wilkinson plays the, conflicted, President Johnson, well and let's us see both sides of the man. The evil and the remorseful side. Finally, Tim Roth as George Wallace is the pure evil lurking in the shadows, pulling strings in the attempts to disrupt any uprising that was trying to happen. The story is great too, one of the biggest movements that stirred the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. The march at Selma is a story we get to see unfold from inception, to the completion of one of King's most well known speeches. This film isn't perfect though and I feel like it should be sold as a biopic than a drama. It really feels like they cracked open and history book and we watched the chapter on "The March at Selma" rather than a drama that follows the story of it. This was also a long film, just about two hours, with a ton of scenes that I just plain didn't like or ones that felt draggy. Make it about King, Johnson and Wallace and the true struggle between the three. Sure, getting development of the people involved in the march is important. It will hit me just hard when I see the racist actions to any African Americans on screen, not just the ones I feel like I know.
'Selma' is a fine film, with a good story and good acting. David Oyelowo is honestly great as Martin Luther King, but don't try to sell this to me as a drama. This feels a biopic that sees Dr. King go through tough times and begin one of the biggest movements of the 1900s. My problem with this is that it yet another film that might be being pushed on us because of the "guilt" of awards shows, and not because of the actual content of the film. I quite liked '12 Years a Slave' last year and 'Selma' is good. I just hope one year, a bad film doesn't get forced upon us as greatness, because of the historical or cultural content.