Selma - Online Review

'at its centre there is a near-epic performance by David Oyelowo that makes you wonder just whether those voting in Oscar-ville were watching this properly'

Ava DuVernay's 'snubbed' Selma is sometimes slow enough of pace and directorial verve to understand why it failed to titillate The Academy in some categories, but at its centre there is a near-epic performance by David Oyelowo that makes you wonder just whether those voting in Oscar-ville were watching this properly. A respected actor playing a real-life person in a politically and socially charged 'true life' film that then didn't get an acting nomination? Oyelowo's performance should have been lapped up by voters, and an inquest commenced into why it was not.

Away from the awards, DuVernay succeeds in both painting a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King (Oyelowo) and finding new lenses through which to examine his life and his work. There's a constant frame throughout Selma, for example, that though King preached peace, his tactics for effecting social change relied on the violence of others. When this didn't happen, his message was diminished and his battle moved on to somewhere else. This feels new, honest and needle-thread-like in its pinpoint awareness. King comes off as no less great because of its inclusion, whilst DuVernay comes off as more so.

Selma focuses on the events surrounding demonstrations in the town of the title, narrowing the scope of DuVernay's portrayal of King to make it manageable. There's some tension though between elements of King's wider life and work that the director obviously felt the need to include and that initial approach of reducing King down to one event for the purpose of the film. Some of the sections with King's family and, in particular his wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo) feel a little tacked on, as do some sections of president Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) consulting with Hoover (Dylan Baker) and arguing with racist governor George Wallace (Tim Roth). By contrast, support from Wendell Pierce, Giovanni Ribisi and Alessandro Nivola, to name just three of an eclectic and outstanding cast, is welcome and developed, but somewhere the balance is off. One-hundred and twenty-eight minutes is long for a film which, at the outset, narrowed its focus to avoid spreading itself too thinly.

That said, Selma is rarely less than satisfying, balancing the location-set demonstrations with much tighter character clashing (at its best during Oyelowo and Wilkinson's handful of scenes together). A stricter or more expansive edit, to balance out the various elements, could have seen something even more special.




Selma was playing on Blinkbox.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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