‘Selma’ Review Roundup: Civil Rights Film Earns Raves
Selma, directed by Ava Duvernay, is a timely historical drama, documenting the Martin Luther King Jr.-led marches in Selma, Ala. during the Civil Rights Movement.
British actor David Oyelowo stars as King, who in 1965, is desperate to get President Lyndon B. Johnson to pass a bill to secure equal voting rights for African-Americans throughout the country. Unable to persuade Johnson to take immediate action, King heads to Selma with Andrew Young (André Holland), Bayard Rustin (Ruben Santiago-Hudson) and others to rally a group together to march from Selma to Montgomery, with the hope that news coverage will incite Johnson to action and for white Americans to stand with their cause.
Critics have lauded Duvernay’s Selma, as well as Oyelowo’s performance as King. The film, which is nominated for four Golden Globes, has been praised for its recreation of the pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement and its characterization of King, who was more than the man who could deliver a rousing, sermonic speech.
“Vivid, nuanced and, yes, timely, director Ava DuVernay’s civil rights-era drama “Selma” opens in 1964. […] Indeed, DuVernay exercises a great deal of quiet and admirable discipline in a film that could have been mired by nostalgia. Jason Moran’s score resists easy swells and makes good use of spirituals. Up-and-coming cinematographer Bradford Young offers a palette that straddles eras — the early ‘6os and ours — with grace.” – Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post
“Selma” is a stunning surface-level exploration of King’s groundbreaking 1965 voting-rights march from Selma, Ala., across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, to the State Capitol in Montgomery. Oyelowo’s piercing eyes empower a lead performance of pure gravitas. What Daniel Day-Lewis did for Lincoln, Oyelowo does for King, mimicking his behavior and speech uncannily. He is both completely believable and someone we’ve never encountered before.” – Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“History becomes breathtaking drama in “Selma”; there’s an urgent realism in the storytelling, as if we’re seeing this just in time. […]The film is both mesmerizing drama and timely history lesson; it stays with you long after the theater lights have been raised. Its final note is a stirring MLK speech, interspersed with captions that tell us the fates of many of those civil-rights heroes. We should know all of their names; thanks to “Selma,” now we do.” – Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times
“Given the level of difficulty inherent in the material, “Selma” is a much better film than we had any reason to expect. If Hollywood was waiting, consciously or otherwise, for a black filmmaker to come along who could handle this topic, then Ava DuVernay was worth the wait. “Selma” is gripping, inspiring and sometimes terrifying historical drama, loaded with specific detail, that brings a turning point of the civil rights movement back from black-and-white obscurity to present-tense urgency.” – Andrew O’Hehir, Salon
Selma is currently in wide release.