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.