First and foremost, David Oyelowo IS Martin Luther King. Whilst watching the film, I was fully convinced by his performance and his depiction of both the confident orator that history knows, and also the vulnerable family man that he was behind closed doors; it is definitely important to see Dr. King as a human being, fully capable of making mistakes and getting angry or upset, rather than as a saint that we can so easily assume he was. In addition to this, the film sports an excellent ensemble cast that also includes a powerful performance from Tom Wilkinson as Lyndon B. Johnson.
The film definitely deserves to be praised for its intention and message; it would have been such an obvious move to make a biopic, from birth to death, about its central character but instead, “Selma” decides to focus on a particular event in Dr. King’s life, namely the pivotal march from Selma to Montgomery. This is indeed a very smart move, as it ensures that the life of Dr. King isn’t trivialised and an important, somewhat lesser-known, event is brought into focus. It is apparent that the filmmakers are passionate about this story and their dedication to a unique perspective is admirable and praiseworthy.
It is refreshing to see that for the most part, “Selma” avoids “Hollywoodisation” and the obligatory, Oscar-baiting moments that we have become tired of; the film defies genre somewhat and while watching, I could not shake the feeling that this was something that I had never really seen before. The film boasts some excellent scenes, particularly the pivotal scenes on the bridge and the violence is handled perfectly; they successfully provoke a definite feeling of horror and unease.
It is hard to find negative aspects of this film but I will say that it is not perfect; there is perhaps not too much material for a feature length film and that certain scenes feel slightly drawn out. I can honestly see “Selma” as more of a 6 episode TV series, rather than a motion picture. That’s seriously just nit-picking though.
In conclusion, this is a thoughtful, confident, intelligent film that stays true to its original intention and presents Dr. King in a unique, honest way. It is definitely a film to be both admired and enjoyed in equal measure.