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 intense, 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.