Selma is a 2014 drama film, which follows the historical 1965 marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. By the time the movie starts, Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) is already a public icon, which is solidified by his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, with his wife, Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo). It is around this time that Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey) attempts to register to vote. Cooper is asked questions, which continued in difficulty, until she is denied her right to vote.
This begins King’s journey to Washington, where he meets with President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson), who agrees with King’s motives, but refuses to help with the voting movement. This doesn’t deter King, who travels to Selma, Alabama, where he is instantly attacked by an angry, young white man. To King, this seems to be a sign that they’ve found a valuable place to begin their movement.
After a meeting with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, King plans his first march, which ends in a violent confrontation and the arrest of King, as well as several of his comrades. After the incident, the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace (Tim Roth), depreciates King’s efforts. From here on out, the entire movie turns into a chess match between Wallace and King.
According to the movie, King’s checkpoint move is a massive march from Selma to the capital in Montgomery. Without King present, the marchers begin their 54-mile journey on March 7, 1965. When the group arrives at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they’re met with strong opposition from state and county police officers. Many of the marchers are beaten and left bloody, which results in the event being nicknamed “Bloody Sunday”.
The group refuses to backdown, as hundreds of activists travel to Selma to partake in the march. This time, King is present, as the marchers set out on the 9th of March. When they make it to the bridge, the police force steps aside, but King refuses to move forward. Instead, he marches everyone back to Selma. Eventually, a federal court gives the marchers permission and protection for the march. President Johnson also has a change of heart and takes a stand against Governor Wallace.
Finally, on March the 21st, King and his comrades make the historical march, as President Johnson introduces his voting rights law to Congress.
Selma is a hit and miss film that is brilliant in many areas, but lackluster is others. The acting is definitely good quality. Tim Roth and Tom Wilkinson were excellent opponents to King’s mission. David Oyelowo portrayed the legendary figure excellently and brought the figure back to life.
Sadly, the film was slightly hard to follow, at times. Many of the scenes felt disjointed and pieced together like a collage of unrelated pictures. In order to fully understand the film, you would have to have a history book handy. Unfortunately, the film has been criticized, as being historically inaccurate.
On the other hand, it is hard to say, whether the film should be credited or criticized for its portrayal of King. For starters, the film fails to provide the viewer with any real backstory on King, which makes it difficult to understand his motives. Secondly, Selma’s King comes off as a selfish man, who is willing to send the sheep to the slaughter, in order to cement his legacy. Throughout, the character came across as self serving and rarely showed compassion or empathy for those he inspired to enter the belly of the beast for their beliefs.
Of course, Selma did hit some high notes. It set the mood perfectly, with a flawless soundtrack and the action played out quite well. While the dialogue was hit and miss, Selma deserves a 6 out of 10.