As the title suggests, “Selma” tells the story of Martin Luther King’s (Oyelowo) leadership during the Civil Rights Movement during the march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama. The film starts off by showing why the movement comes to Selma and chronicles all of the events leading to the march through the state.
While the movie is focused on King’s journey in leading the movement, it also gives time to show the reactions of prominent figures such as President Lyndon B. Johnson (Wilkinson) and Alabama Governor George Wallace (Roth), as well as how the entire civil rights movement weighs on King’s family life.
“Selma” plays similarly to the 2012 film “Lincoln.” Instead of being a biopic that shows King’s entire life, “Selma” only shows a smaller portion. For the most part, “Selma” is a compelling real life drama and it doesn’t shy away from the horrific brutality that was experienced by the African Americans protesting for their rights.
Not only is the audience shown what life was like for those who dared march through the city of Selma, it shows how much it affected King as a person. There were many moments in the movie where King was humanized, and it shows that underneath the great, soaring speeches and and will to never give up was a man who simply wanted equal rights for every single American regardless of what they look like.
Another aspect that should be credited in “Selma” was how the civil rights movement was portrayed. There were many scenes that showed disagreements on what the next steps in the movement should be and how certain retaliations should be handled. It was important as it lent insight into what was a very complex ordeal.
There were a few moments that felt a little too forced, though, which kept “Selma” from being a truly great movie. For example, there is a scene where King is having a discussion about his leadership with one of the younger members of the civil rights movement. The scene is doing well until music is injected which pushes it to being a bit over the top.
The most commendable part of the movie, without a doubt, is Oyelowo as Dr. King. There are scenes where King is shown as we know him, the powerful leader and speech giver, and the side of him that we didn’t see as much. The times he was at his home looking like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. Oyelowo portrays these both very well and really embodies what King was all about.
Also fantastic in the film was Wilkinson as the legendary arm twisting President Lyndon B. Johnson. In the film, Johnson is portrayed as a president who is trying to balance the civil rights movement with all of the other challenges that America was facing at the time. What Wilkinson captures well is the many sides of LBJ
Wilkinson, along with the film’s writers, show LBJ as a person who supports the civil rights movement to an extent, but also doesn’t want it to boil over so to speak.
Roth was also strong as Alabama Gov. Wallace. Roth captures the deep seeded opposition to the civil rights movement well and displays it honestly on screen.
One of the film’s weaker parts was the portrayal of J. Edgar Hoover. Compared other films with Hoover in the past few years, Dylan Baker’s portrayal as the iconic figure is simply less memorable.
Credit can be given heavily to Director DuVernay and the rest of the crew for honestly showing the violent reactions from the officers of the local and state police who beat down multiple protesters of all colors and creeds, all of which was captured by reporters and journalists who were watching the situations unfold. The movie also had well placed footage towards the end of the movie of the actual protest.
“Selma” wasn’t a perfect film from beginning to end, but did provide a look at what it was like for those that were protesting for equal rights. It is also aided by fantastic performances. This one is worth seeing, 4 out of 5.