The events and spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1965 civil rights campaign in the heart of the segregationist Deep South are a history lesson every American should take to heart. So watching director Ava DuVernay’s dramatization is a little like swallowing your medicine: It may have a strange and disturbing taste, but you’ll feel better having gone through with it. Nothing at all wrong with David Oyelowo’s impersonation of Dr. King, nor Paul Webb’s emblematic screenplay, nor DuVernay’s handling of the often-violent tenor of the times, but the villains in this sort of movie are almost always more interesting than the heroes. Note that most of the major roles of these definitively American figures are played by actors from the UK: Oyelowo’s Rev. King, President Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson), Alabama governor George Wallace (Tim Roth), and Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo). It’s almost as if a little distance is still needed, fifty years afterward, in relating one of the most traumatic (and ultimately uplifting) episodes in America’s ongoing saga of tormented racial relations. Recommended (127 min.).
Director: Ava DuVernay
Producer: Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Brad Pitt, Cameron McCracken, Nik Bower, Diarmuid McKeown, Ava DuVernay, Paul Garnes and Nan Morales
Cast: David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo, Giovanni Ribisi, Alessandro Nivola, Cuba Gooding Jr., Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey, Common, Lorraine Toussaint, Andre Holland, Omar J. Dorsey, Dylan Baker, Tessa Thompson, Colman Domingo, Stephen Root, Jeremy Strong, Nigel Thatch and Martin Sheen