In 1965, Dr Martin Luther King turned his attention to Selma, Alabama, where he fought to secure the voting rights for Black American's living in the South. Dr King organized marches from Selma to Montgomery to protest the peoples' human right to vote.
David Oyelowo delivers an astonishing performance as Martin Luther King Jr, he doesn't portray him as the saint that some of us know him as, but as a man, a man with flaws. This outstanding performance should have earned Oyelowo an Oscar nomination, it's a flawless transformation. Not once did his performance feel like an imitation of MLK.
Director Ava DuVernay delivers a captivating story, not detailing the entirety of King's life, but showing us the ins and outs of his battle in Selma, Alabama. DuVernay gets world class performances from all of her actors, including Tim Roth, Tom Wilkinson, Common and Oprah Winfrey. But make no mistake, this is Oyelowo's show, this is the real showcase for the talent he's shown glimpses of over the past few years, he disappears into the role of Martin Luther King Jr.
This is an emotionally powerful film that unfortunately feels relevant today. Selma beautifully captures an incredibly important moment in US history.
The studio didn't own the rights to Dr. King's speeches so it was up to writer Paul Webb to script some new speeches for Oyelowo to perform. The speeches are incredibly powerful, making you want to stand up out of your seat and cheer.
DuVernay and Oyelowo go to great lengths to humanize the character of Dr King, succeeding all the way. He is a flawed, passionate and rich character. DuVernay does a great job of making the smaller moments feel as powerful as the larger scale moments. Oprah Winfrey's character being denied her vote at the very beginning of the film was a small and quiet scene, yet it felt as powerful as the horrifying 'Bloody Sunday' scene when 600 marchers were attacked at the Edmund Pettus Bridge by State Troopers.
John Legend and Common of course won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the Oscars last week, and they fully deserved it, the song "Glory" is incredible. But Selma has been severely under appreciated at this years Academy Awards, Oyelowo should have been nominated for his masterful performance and Ava DuVernay also deserved a nomination for Best Director, this is a well paced, terrifically shot and masterfully acted film that deserved more attention.
Selma sports some impressive production and costume design, faithfully recreating 1960's America. Whilst the film doesn't go to deep with any of its supporting characters, it does an amazing job of making everyone feel relevant to the story. We see both the romantic and political side of the relationship between MLK and his wife played by Carmen Ejogo, we get a peek into their home life without the film ever becoming solely about the relationship, it fits neatly into the larger story.
Tom Wilkinson plays President Lyndon B. Johnson, a man who supports King, but doesn't hold the same agenda. He believes there are more important issues to tackle before the right to vote.
Selma is a strong, compelling and fantastic piece of film that I strongly recommend you run out and see while you still can.