Movie Review: Selma (2014)

imageIt’s been a long journey to the movie screen for the Martin Luther King Jr. story, but writer/director Ava DuVernay’s Selma (B+) is a stunning and sometimes surprising biopic that taps into the zeitgeist of the continuing civil rights struggle. As amazing as he is in reenacting famous oratory, David Oyelowo is even more compelling in the quiet and more contemplative moments as his MLK wrestles with mortality and the consequences of his personal choices on his mass movement. Additionally, Carmen Ejogo gives a sturdy performance in a small role as Coretta, and Tom Wilkinson is effective as a duplicitous LBJ. DuVernay makes some fascinating choices in terms of timeline and sequence, including straightforward typed government descriptors of MLK’s whereabouts and activities from FBI operatives. The film also ends at an expected place. Overall triumph eclipses tragedy in some key moments, which may gloss over the state of the struggle a bit. But the smart dialogue, period detail and forward momentum to the narrative help the film to tell its story of a critical juncture in a specific place and time.

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