50 years ago, Martin Luther King led a history-changing campaign to secure equal voting rights via a march from Selma to Montgomery. This culminated in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Based on these events, Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” is a strong reminder of America’s tormented racial history and how far society has come over the last half a century.
David Oyelowo is extraordinary as Martin Luther King, truly asserting himself in the role. Oyelowo forms a startling resemblance to King, not just in his appearance, but in the way he delivers each speech and monologue with an untainted conviction. There’s certainly a promising future for the star.
Despite its heavy emphasis on Martin Luther King, this is by no means a biopic. Selma also features a strong supporting cast comprising of Carmen Ejogo, Dylan Baker, Oprah Winfrey, Stan Houston and Tim Roth. Whereas they each give a strong performance when given their opportunity to shine in the spotlight, the film loses its sense of urgency when Oyelowo isn’t on-screen, as he firmly holds it together.
Nevertheless, Selma’s key moments also prove to be its best moments. The protests, of which there are multiple throughout the two hour running time, brilliantly capture the reality of the situation and are extremely tense affairs. While these scenes are marginally over-stylised, they are very well executed through the cinematography.
Bradford Young (best known for his work on “A Most Violent Year“) once again demonstrates his keen eye for visuals; the way in which he frames each shot and his use of natural light pushes the boundaries of modern filmmaking. It’s a delight to watch.
Linking the protests are a series of long, drawn out scenes that, in retrospect, serve little purpose to the film as a whole. While they are intended to provide further background information about the voting rights campaign, the lengthy lines of dialogue are more likely to disengage viewers.