Review: Selma


At a time in The United States of America when we as a nation are actively discussing racism, Selma champions the importance of humanity and examines one of America’s greatest advocates for civil rights, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Upon entering the theater (which coincidentally is addressed at Martin Luther King Dr. in Oklahoma City), I was anxious to see how director Ava DuVernay would examine Dr. King–not just as a leader but as a man. Selma was a great way movie to start off my year, and to be blunt it still has me in its grasp.


Powerful and Entertaining

Aside from an original song by Common that, while meaningful, has instrumentation that sounds uncomfortable and awkward, there is little to criticize regarding Selma and its study of Dr. King–and that in itself is the film’s biggest strength.

This is not a film viewing racial tensions from afar. It is quite intimate and forces the viewer to feel tense, and at times uncomfortable–considering all of what’s presented actually happened. It was a great choice to make the film a character study, looking at MLKJ from every angle as a flawed but passionate man who was as honest about his nation as he was about God, himself, and the people he served.

The film’s story is intriguing, regardless of how familiar you are with it beforehand. Even myself, someone who was well aware of the history Selma would be presenting, found that I was still emotionally wrapped up in the film, reacting to the story as if it were my first time experiencing it. Paul Webb has penned a satisfying screenplay, full of three-dimensional characters, all of which are great to watch. There’s not a dull moment to be found in the film.

Selma is full of sincere drama, encouraged only by the many moments of true tension that encompass it. This is a serious look at Dr. King as a leader and man of God, the likes of which should not be taken lightly as the film is serious in its intentions. It expects you to be quiet, and to pay attention. You’ll be rewarded and moved if you do.

Selma Movie (2)

David Oyelowo gives an Oscar-worthy performance in the lead as Dr. King right down to his mannerisms and speech patterns. Not once did I feel as if I was watching an actor. He is Dr. King for the film’s entirety, and is the driving force behind making the film the success that it is. The supporting cast is quite good as well, particularly Carmen Ejogo as King’s wife, Coretta. The cast is Selma’s strongest attribute with not a weak performance to speak of.

Bradford Young’s (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) cinematography is more than serviceable as it accentuates every moment through great use of light and color. Shot with Arri Alexa cameras, many moments utilize negative space via deep blacks in the dead of night or pristine sunlight bursting through windows behind characters.

The film effortlessly transports you to 1965, to the scorching streets of Selma, Alabama. Christian iconography is also well used, communicating the importance of Dr. King’s faith to his cause and mission to see every American citizen treated equally. The scenes of violence are also handled with great care and respect.


Selma is a film that needs to be seen by anyone who loves great cinema. It is a good example of how film is an effective art form, communicating the timeless message of loving our neighbors as we would want them to love us. It’s difficult to critique a film that gets almost everything right, considering it succeeds so well in its goal. In a world where many spend their time arguing over their favorite fantasy/superhero epics, I’m glad to see a film that examines the world as it once was, taking from that history such a wonderful message. Please, go and enjoy Selma.

Content Guide for Selma

Violence – Black marchers are terrorized and beaten with guns, nightsticks, barbed stakes, and a variety of other weapons. Men, women, and children are beaten and killed–all of which is historically accurate.
Sexual Content – A fabricated tape presenting Dr. King with an alleged mistress during sex is listened to by Coretta King.
Language – Racial slurs are common (“n****r”, “n*****s”). Some uses of the words “f**k”,”g*****n”, “b******t.”




The Bottom Line


Posted in , ,

Josh Hale

Student of Jesus, lover of film, filmmaking, & film analysis. Raised in the church, Navy Brat, excited to write and create video reviews @ my YouTube channels. I love knowing that God uses stories to communicate with us through his word, and I am thankful for a community such as this. Thanks for taking the time to read this, Much Love. and -

1 Comment

  1. Maurice Pogue on January 10, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    Finally got to around to watching this. I agree that the performances of David Oyelowo and company are on point, and they crush any institutionally racist perceptions that a black actors and actresses can’t hold their own. Now if only Hollywood would fund more works like these—of predominantly black casts. There are a *TON* stories behind the Civil Rights movement that do not revolve around MLK that are as enthralling and emotionally impactful, especially by women outside of Coretta and Rosa Parks.

    Selma is an intelligent movie. The screenwriters knew exactly what they were doing. Colorblind (racist) found themselves watching this movie out of the blue and wonder why they should care? Viola Liuzzo and James Reeb are featured to show that Klansmen would jack up anyone, including women and clergy, to maintain the status quo.

    (Now if only that lesson would translate to modern economics and the 1% hegemony)
    That said, what I find that is the most intellectually engaging are the conversations between MLK and LBJ and the inner-tensions of SNCC. High school-level history classes make it sound like JFK’s assassination sparked the signing of the Civil Rights act of 1964, and that LBJ was more progressive than JFK. This film crushes those perceptions and reiterates that even forward-thinking whites were hesitant to piss off the racists who would go be enraged enough to form the “Solid South” under Nixon’s Southern Strategy. I think it is important for people to see the Confederate flags (symbolic of Dixieland) in this film and make the connections IRL 2015 as to why it needed to come down in South Carolina and still needs to come down elsewhere.
    Selma’s illustration of the conflicts between the two heads at SNCC is a delectable bonus. MLK is universally recognized as is the NAACP, but lesser-celebrated organizations like the SCLC and SNCC are only remembered by folks who know their history. I’m glad that the film took the time to demonstrate that none of the organizations involved were without conflict. I do believe that God celebrated the dissolution of Jim Crow, but that does not mean that the people were getting in the way.

    Lastly, as a native Alabamian of 20+ years, I have to say that Tim Roth’s portrayal of George Wallace was incredible. If they ever give Brown v Board the Hollywood sheen that Selma was given, I hope Roth reprises the role to do the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door.

Leave a Reply