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Copyright © 2014 Paramount Pictures

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. accomplished many wonderful achievements during his prematurely shortened lifetime of only 39 years. At the center of pretty much everything was his continuing fight for racial equality. There have been countless movies made over the years chronicling such events. Director Ava DuVernay appears to have made a wise decision in choosing Selma as her first major project to find its way to the big screen. Actor David Oyelowo gives a polarizing performance as Dr. King in this historic drama.

Selma is a small city in lower west Alabama and in 1965 happened to be the starting point of the Voting Rights Movement march which lead to a five day, 54 mile walk all the way to the state capital, Montgomery, Alabama. That is the main focus of the movie Selma. And despite what one might assume there was a lot going on over a short period of time that led to this march.

The obvious challenge with a subject that most people are decently versed on is to find a way to put it on screen where it feels interesting, fresh and compelling. Selma does a decent job in this area as it exposes viewers to some of the finer details in a way that doesn’t feel monotonous and still comes across as suspenseful. The emotional dial is turned up to high for the majority of feature due to the controversial behaviors, actions and words that modern America aren’t used to having to endure so bluntly. This may cause a bit of unease and discomfort but is necessary to deliver the full impact that is required.

One of the biggest strengths of Selma might be the casting which leads to exceptional performances on screen. As mentioned earlier, David Oyelowo is outstanding and where he really excels is in his public speaking. Whether it’s speaking during a eulogy at church or a victory speech in front of the Capitol Building his words resonate with the audience and one might feel they’ve traveled back 50 years and are shoulder to shoulder with those in attendance. Additional cast members to name a few are Carmen Ejogo (Coretta Scott King), Tom Wilkinson (President Lyndon B. Johnson), Tim Roth (Governor George Wallace), Oprah Winfrey and Giovanni Ribisi; all of whom did a wonderful job. This list could’ve gone on and on but IMDb was created for a reason.

Another interesting aspect of Selma was display of Dr. King’s more vulnerable side. Despite his strong stage presence and stoic posture when in public it’s often forgotten that he is also a father, a husband and just a plain man at times. Some of his challenges are brought to light dealing with his personal struggles so there’s that layer to absorb as well. Viewers might also find it a bit surprising as well at just how much contact Dr. King had with the White House administration as he was seen as “the lesser of two evils” due to his non-violent approach compared to other factions such as the one led by Malcolm X.

Selma will affect different audiences different ways but no matter how you look at it or what side you’re on the movie itself, it is worth seeing. 50 years ago is not THAT long ago but it’s a good reminder of just how far the equal rights movement has come and it also sheds light on just how far we have to go as human beings. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the movie in one form or another gets some Oscar consideration. Selma is now in wide release at theaters just in time for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Black History Month coming right around the corner in February.

Selma is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Carl Wheeler


  1. Good review, Carl. I think he has some Golden Globe nominations already for the movie, and SAG.

  2. I left this film feeling disappointed. The acting was wonderful and what was covered in the movie was covered in grace and dignity. But I wanted more. I wanted to know more about Selma. I wanted to get to know her people. I wanted to know more about the sheriff character so I could hate him some more. I wanted to know a little more about MLK’s associates. I needed a bit more on J Edgar Hoover vs. MLK.

    My wife liked the movie as well, but agreed it had some slow spots. I would not dissuade anyone from seeing this movie, but I’m not sure, in my personal case, that the movie hit the mark.


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