Selma (2014)

Biography, Drama, History
David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Jim France, Trinity Simone
A chronicle of Martin Luther King's campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.
Fueled by a gripping performance from David Oyelowo, Selma draws inspiration and dramatic power from the life and death of Martin Luther King, Jr. -- but doesn't ignore how far we remain from the ideals his work embodied.
  • Paramount Pictures Company:
  • PG-13 Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 09 Jan 2015 Released:
  • 04 May 2015 DVD Release:
  • $52.0M Box office:

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Fueled by a gripping performance from Oyelowo.9/10
Film critic Richard Roeper said it best. Selma is a film that provides a history lesson, but doesn't feel like a history lecture. Not one bit.

I foresee a bright future for the director Ava DuVernay and actor David Oyelowo. For DuVernay's second or third effort, it's quite an achievement what she manages to do with this film. For nearly fifteen years she's been working in studio marketing and publicity and her film speaks for itself. She directs the film with flare and keeps the film emotionally grounded. Even though at times you think you know whats coming, DuVernay keeps us at bay and also provides us with some neat surprises. Also give Paul Webb some credit with his sharp screenplay.

David Oyelowo truly embodies MLK. More often than not Selma tends to focus on something not many people tend to expect in a movie about MLK. The script showcases his doubts and insecurities. Oyelowo comes through with a deeply felt and compelling performance. He also nails Dr. King's speech patterns, voice, even his posture and shows that Dr. King has his flaws, but is a compassionate person. I find it hard that anyone will be able to take their eyes off him. What a performance. Shame that it was overlooked by the Academy.

Everyone in the cast brings their "A-game." I liked Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, but I wanted just a little more of her character, but she makes up the most of what she has. Oprah Winfrey is solid as Annie Lee Cooper. She has a very substantial role and has a nice subplot. Other particular standouts are Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon B. Johnson, Tim Roth as George Wallace.

Selma takes itself very seriously, there isn't much humor to be found, and any break from documenting its events are often downbeat character moments. However DuVernay's talent is in full blaze. This film is very heavy, but it always grabs your attention, often in the hands of Oyelowo's performance. The March 7th, "Bloody Sunday" sequence is brutal to watch, but DuVernay and cinematographer Bradford Young achieve and deliver quite an intense and impactful set piece. Literally, it hits you in the gut as we watch history forged in flesh and blood.

I am still shocked that this film received so little recognition by the Academy. Oyelowo and DuVernay should have been nominated at the very least. I believe you can blame that to Paramount Pictures as I heard that they did not deliver the screeners on time for the Academy voters. It's a pity.

By the time we arrive at the film's postscript, revealing the fates of several people chronicled by Selma, it's almost impossible not to be moved by their courage and sacrifice. Selma to me, is not just a biopic, but rather a film that celebrates a community action through the eyes of Martin Luther King Jr. This movie sadly, could not be more relevant right now.

Excellent and moving film9/10
We had to see this movie after so many conflicting things were said about it. I did not go in with high expectations and was surprised to find that everything about the movie was excellent, from the casting, costumes, and sets, to the filming, script, directing, lighting effects and music. It all worked for me. I was moved and upset in all the right places, from the shocking beginning to the triumphant, and also foreboding end. The cutting in of actual film footage towards the end was welcome and not overdone or trivialized. Kind of like, let's slip the audience back into reality now. This was real. It really happened and people kept on fighting and dying for civil rights in America after the events of this movie.

I loved it. It should have gotten more Academy Award nominations than it did. Especially for the actors who played Martin and Coretta King. I can't believe they are not even Amerian actors. Nicely done accents. The actor who played LBJ was also very good, but being from Texas I was not as convinced by his accent. If I was on the Board for the Academy Awards I definitely would nominate this movie for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress - at minimum.
A highly engaging look at the Civil Rights Movement8/10
I'll admit I'm not a fan of the biopic genre. mainly because I find most biopics to be boring even though they usually serve as a canvas for great performances. Selma serves as both a Martin Luther King biopic and a civil rights drama. But there's something about Selma that makes it different from Spike Lee's Malcolm X or Lee Daniel's The Butler and most biopics.

Selma chronicles Dr. Martin Luther King's campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Directed by: Ava DuVernay and starring: David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo, Giovianni Ribsi, Oprah Winfrey and Tim Roth, Selma is an absorbing film that offers a gritty and harrowing look at the Civil Rights Movement of 1965 and is led by a highly engaging, multi- layered performance from David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King. As someone who is known for his small supporting roles this is a huge leap forward for Oyelowo. Tim Roth and Tom Wilkinson are also very good in their supporting roles. Tim Roth is the stand- out among the two and gives the film's next best performance after Oyelowo as the racist governor of Alabama, George Wallace. The movie also features good cameo performances from Martin Sheen, Cuba Gooding Jr, Dylan Baker and Oprah Winfrey.

Selma manages to avoid being a generic biopic by being a film that is equally about the civil rights march as it is about Martin Luther King. It's a powerful and emotionally moving film. Politics is a major element of the film and King's speeches, his debates with Lyndon B. Johnson are as important as his personal problems at home. DuVernay's direction is truly superb. She manages to create a tension filled atmosphere and deliver two of the film's best and most brilliantly staged scenes. The script from Paul Webb is equally engrossing. The pacing is swift and there is rarely a dull moment throughout the film.

All in all, Selma is a wonderful movie that provides an enthralling look at the civil rights movement and the life of Martin Luther King Jr. that is both deftly directed and excellently acted.

Final Score: 8.5/10

-Khalid Rafi

More Movie Reviews at:
Selma: The Courageous March for Civil Rights - why it is still relevant today.)9/10
I went away from the screening feeling empowered to write an inspiring review of, "Selma." I was deeply moved by the image of marchers from diverse religions, black and white, standing together against injustice and inhumanity. These people risked their lives for the rights we enjoy today. And the themes are still so relevant in this time of racial discord and disillusionment with those in power.

Then there was the controversy around the accuracy of the film's depiction of President Lyndon Johnson as a deterrent to the march at Selma. Director Ava DuVernay explained that it was her artistic vision. She suggested that people research it for themselves. After doing my own research, I found that President Johnson's involvement was not black and white. He was first and foremost a Southern politician. I believe that, "Selma," is DuVernay's honest take on the events. Her vision is to invite the audience into the spirit of the movement from the point of view of its black protagonists. It was greater than just one man. It was a community coming together to figure out the best way to accomplish their civil rights objectives.

The movie shows how African-Americans were humiliated, threatened with losing their jobs, beaten or even killed for attempting to vote in the South. A group of civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo), decide that the best course of action is to fight for the unobstructed right to vote. King meets with President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) to request that he pass the Voting Rights Act. But the president's goal is to keep a handle on the civil rights movement and he is only interested in uncovering King's next course of action. He claims that there is too much on his plate, including fighting poverty, to pass a Voting Rights Act.

The activists decide to bring attention to the issue by holding a non-violent demonstration in Selma, Alabama. As the protesters kneel down before Sheriff Jim Clark, a police officer strikes an elderly man who has difficulty kneeling. When two protesters intervene to protect the man, the police respond with a vicious attack. The protesters flee, but the policemen are unrelenting in their pursuit. One young man helps his family escape into a restaurant, where they pretend to be eating. The policemen track them down and shoot the young man in cold blood. Spurred on by this tragedy, the community rallies together. They organize a non-violent march from Selma.

When the peaceful marchers reach the end of a bridge, Sheriff Jim Clark is waiting for them. He sics his armed state troopers on the marchers. The nation watches, horrified, as the marchers are savagely beaten as white citizens cheer. Martian Luther King sends out a call to his fellow clergy to stand with him as they march again. Moved by the inhumanity, they come to show their support. It is inspiring to see black and white people from all religions joining arms and standing together.

The reason I wanted to include the excerpt from his Montgomery speech is that it still rings true today. Martin Luther King educates the nation on how after the emancipation, the Southern aristocracy was afraid of the freed slaves organizing with the poor whites for better working conditions, so they passed the Jim Crow segregation laws to separate them. The inherent message was no matter how low the white man was, the blacks were lower. (Not unlike how our current politicians use undocumented immigrants as scapegoats, blaming them for causing the recession by taking the poor man's jobs.)

Witnessing the inhumane treatment of the blacks at the march in Selma created more understanding of the plight of African Americans - which allowed President Lyndon Johnson to finally pass the Voting Rights Act in 1965. I hope witnessing these events will remind us of the difficult battle that was waged to achieve these rights, so we won't allow them to be taken away.

Movie blessings! Reel Inspiration dot blogspot dot com

I will be writing about Director Ava DuVernay in an upcoming Reel Inspiration post on "Women Directors."
A good MLK biopic that could have been great.6/10
Selma tells the story of Martin Luther King as he organizes the infamous marches during the height of the civil rights movement. To be fair, Selma is a good film. It isn't a great film, but it is good. David Oyelowo gives a great performance as MLK despite feeling like a bit of a miscast but it isn't enough to sustain interest in his character, which is shameful considering the great and brilliant man that he is portraying. All in all, Oyelowo doesn't pack the punch that we all want to see out of a MLK based film. At 122 minutes, this film wallows in cheap drama surrounded by some serious heavyweight performances, it creates an uneven balance between what is great and what is mediocre. Actor Tim Roth does great work here in portraying the ruthless and racist George Wallace. Roth delivers an evil performance that will turn your stomach with every syllable that spews out of his mouth. Roth does a great, outstanding job in making you hate him and I definitely give him high praise in this film. Another stand out performance is Carmen Ejogo, who portrays Coretta Scott King with such honesty and velocity that she's hard to ignore. Ejogo's performance is one that I continuously am thinking about even as I'm writing this. The supporting cast is huge in this film, featuring Tom Wilkinson, Cuba Gooding Jr, Giovanni Ribisi, Common and Oprah Winfrey. But just because the star power is here, doesn't mean they're all good. Honestly, the supporting cast outside of Tim Roth and Common are mediocre at best. Oprah Winfrey delivers a performance that we've seen multiple times over the course of her acting career. It is nothing new, especially because it feels she is just rehashing the same performance from last year's The Butler or from the much superior The Color Purple. Winfrey serves as more of a distraction than anything else. Common is awesome in this film in a small but crucial role to what Oyelowo's King wants to achieve. Common proved before that he can act, but here, he proves that he isn't just another rapper turned actor, he really delivers force to this film with blunt and swift justice. The screenplay here is Selma's downfall. Written by first time screenwriter, Paul Webb, it really feels like Webb's first rodeo, making classic first time mistakes between cheesy dialog and long drawn out scenes that, in retrospect, serve little purpose to the film as a whole. Despite these issues with the screenplay, it was in the most capable hands possible for this film...Ava DuVernay. While there are major pacing issues with the film, DuVernay directs this with a determined efficiency that oozes out of every second of the film. While this can't save Selma from falling casualty to a lot of cliche scenes and cheesy dialog, she does make up for all of what's wrong with the film with a handful of great performances and awesome cinematography. Overall, Selma is nowhere near the Oscar contender that I wanted it to be nor is it the biopic that a man as great as Martin Luther King, Jr deserves but Selma is a decent film that reminds me more of Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" or Lee Daniels' "The Butler" rather than last year's instant classic "12 Years a Slave". It's a good movie, nothing more, nothing less.