6.5/10 Despite its 46% on Rotten Opinions, “Emancipation”, while flawed, is actually a solid film. There are issues with trying to juggle too many balls at once in terms of genres and the film looking a little over produced/stylized for its subject matter but there is a lot to admire here with director Antoine Fuqua’s film. King of black fragility and serial cuckhold Will Smith may have disgraced himself at the Oscars earlier this year with the slap heard round the world but in giving credit where credit is due, he does give one Hell of a dedicated performance in this film. His physicality and willingness to (literally) get his hands dirty is admirable. The rest of the supporting cast is strong too, especially the underrated Ben Foster. Fuqua doesn’t shy away from the brutality of slavery, which is a good thing. The score is solid and the pacing works well, despite coming in at over two hours long. The origin of this true story is a fascinating one and although similar films like “12 Years a Slave” are far superior, this is still an original story that hasn’t been told in this manner before. As for what doesn’t work, there are a few minor issues. The film tries to be a survival thriller, historical drama, action/war film, etc. It gets spread a little thin by trying to accomplish too much all at once. While the brilliant cinematographer Robert Richardson does do solid work, the film looks too polished for what should be a dirtier, grittier film. We should feel the thick humidity of the muddy swamps but instead get a lot of drone shots. The color scheme didn’t really work for me either. The film rotates between black & white, color and a mix of the two and it just feels random and all over the place. I also wish we could have gotten to know Peter’s (Smith) family a little bit better through some more character development. That being said, the war scenes near the end of the film are incredibly well directed and shot and I liked that even after Peter escapes, he still has to battle further for his freedom, making it all the more rewarding once achieved. There are several tear jerking, strong emotional scenes that absolutely tug on your heart strings as we see families torn apart as well as reunited, men dying for their country/freedom and the evils of slavery and racism. It’s not perfect and films like “12 Years a Slave” and “Glory” are far superior but this is still a film worth checking out, especially if you want to know the true story behind the historical photograph that helped Americans wake up to the evils of slavery and turn the tide towards freedom.

#IndependenceDays / #PeterRan / #DontPeterOutNow / #HellOrSwampWater / #PhotoBackInCirculation / #SwampAssTheMovie

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