There have been plenty of films about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but there has yet to be something about him on the lines of Spike Lee’s Malcolm X that is truly powerful and moving. The latest movie that tries to get it right is Selma, which focuses on the terrible events that plagued the civil rights act in the mid-60’s more so than on King himself. While the movie could’ve been so much more had it featured some of King’s famous speeches, it is without a doubt the best movie about him and this struggle made to date.
The film opens with the horrific 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four black girls in 1963. It then goes into where bigots and white supremacists were violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by holding up or denying the voting registration process for blacks. This leads to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (played wonderfully by David Oyelowo) and some of his friends/followers to take a stand against the ever increasing hatred that was rising in Alabama between whites and blacks. But as we know, this was easier said than done, as there are more than enough scenes of violence where King and those with him are either beaten, murdered, locked away or all of the above.
As things look their bleakest, King sets out to meet and talk with President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign off on the Voting Rights Act, much to Johnson’s dismay. After several meetings and not getting anywhere, King decides to use the media against him using passive resistance which in turn would get bigots to act out and be caught on camera acting violently while letting the whole world see. Of course this cuts both ways as the FBI digs up any kind of dirt they can on King and his followers, with more disagreements leading the film to its dramatic conclusion of the 1965 Bloody Sunday in Selma and its aftermath.
It was painful to watch at times due the bigotry and hatred, but I enjoyed Selma. What really made it such a great film is how it goes into a wide range of perspectives from all the major characters. Things such as the conflicts between King and his followers, his wife Coretta and his infidelities the FBI brings to light, and King’s arguments with Lyndon B. Johnson while Johnson in turn fights with Alabama Governor George Wallace. Normally having this much going on would be too much, but the film handles it in such a way where it all fits together perfectly.
The only major gripe that I came away with was the lack of any of King’s famous speeches being present in the film. This is due to his family not handing over the rights to them since they are copyrighted, which is a real shame as the movie could’ve been so much more moving and powerful had they been included. Paramount did a great job with this Blu-ray, as the high definition visuals and audio are spot on and serve to keep viewers glued to their seats.
There are quite a few special features to look at after the film ends, starting with not one, but two different audio commentaries. One has director Ava DuVernay along with David Oyelowo talking about the film and what went into making it, while the other has the director and some of the crew going into some of the more technical aspects of the movie. “The Road To Selma” is a short documentary that talks about how it took nearly eight years for Paul Webb’s screenplay to finally get made into the film. There’s also some historic extras and more, deleted and extended scenes, and of course the music video for the Academy Award-winning song “Glory” written and performed by John Legend and Common.
Selma is a film that everybody needs to see, despite being tough to watch due to the horrific truths that happened in history. It would’ve been nice to have King’s legendary speeches featured here, but the overall message shines through clearly thanks to a great cast and even greater acting. With plenty of special features that give even more insight into this moment of history, everyone should have this must-see Blu-ray in their collection.