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FutureStarrWill Smith's Emancipation Review
Will Smith's Emancipation has been met with much controversy in the industry. It marks his first movie since his on-camera assault against Chris Rock at the Oscars, prompting many to speculate as to its fate.
Director Antoine Fuqua, known for movies like Training Day and The Magnificent Seven, has created something that lacks the energy to match his action-oriented works. Additionally, its script struggles to maintain momentum throughout its run time.
Will Smith's Oscar win this past spring was marred by the controversial "slap" at Jada Pinkett-Smith's expense, and the actor would be celebrating after an incredible awards season and ready for another shot at winning big. Instead, he has been recast as Peter, an escaped slave in Civil War-era Louisiana who takes up with a brutal slave hunter and embarks on an incredible journey of survival and freedom.
"Emancipation", directed by Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day") and written by William N. Collage, tells the story of Peter and Gordon, two enslaved Black men who were photographed displaying slavery's effects by their overseers. Starring Smith as Peter, Ben Foster as a cruel slave hunter, and Charmaine Bingwa as both free women and mothers, "Emancipation" tells their tale through photographs.
The film revolves around the iconic "Whipped Peter" photograph, an image depicting slavery's brutal effects that was widely circulated and served to jump-start the abolitionist movement. This photo represents what photographers might refer to as a "cathartic moment" in American history - one which gave abolitionists an effective weapon in their fight for liberation.
"Emancipation" is an eye-opening historical account of the abolitionist movement and how Blacks were treated during that era, but it can be an uncomfortable film for most viewers to watch. Shot with a desaturated, nearly black-and-white palette that captures the harsh reality of such a brutal period in American history, it can be disconcerting and even depressing at times to watch.
But the movie is worth watching if you're searching for a more honest, less sugarcoated account of the period. At its best, it paints an eloquent and captivating portrait of a time that too often gets forgotten.
It is a story that, if told with the necessary sensitivity and respect, could bring crucial conversations about race and the Civil War back into public discussion in America - reinforcing their place as legitimate voices in national debate. Furthermore, it could give abolitionists insight into their ideals' implementation, helping them gain perspective on how their ideals were put into practice and potentially restore their legitimacy as legitimate voices in national discussions.
One year after winning an Oscar for his role as King Richard, Will Smith returns to theaters with a new movie starring him: Emancipation. Directed by Antoine Fuqua and featuring Smith as an escaped slave during Civil War-era Louisiana, Emancipation stars Smith.
The film is based on a real-life photograph of an escaped slave known as "Whipped Peter," who became a symbol for antislavery after it was revealed to the world that he'd been whipped multiple times during his runaway freedom. This photo, featuring Peter's severe injuries on his back, helped turn Americans against slavery and fuel the abolitionist movement.
In this adaptation of the story, Will Smith stars as Peter, a slave who escapes his plantation to join Union troops during the Civil War. The film chronicles Peter's journey from plantation to Union army camp at its peak.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, best known for action thrillers like Training Day and King Richard biopic, Emancipation is an intense and compelling watch that follows Smith's character as they attempt to free themselves from slavery in Louisiana swamps.
Will Smith is given little to work with, yet he delivers an outstanding performance as Peter the fugitive. His understated but powerful presence truly brings alive Peter's physicality - it is truly touching to watch him perform.
Once the film begins, expect an intense and gut-wrenching experience that will have you covering your eyes and sobbing in some scenes. There is much bloodshed, gore, violence, shocking cruelty as well as a persistent reminder that slavery was once an integral part of American history.
Even with all this, there are moments where you can sense Fuqua's message. At times, it becomes evident that Fuqua wants to emphasize a story of Black resistance and spiritual perseverance.
This meticulously crafted drama feels like a blend of survival thriller, action adventure and Civil War epic. It attempts to incorporate different elements from each genre, but ultimately succeeds due to Will Smith's quietly powerful performance and strong direction by Antoine Fuqua.
Antoine Fuqua's name has become synonymous with quality. His The Equalizer films have showcased his mastery of stylized gore and daring camerawork, but Emancipation marks his first collaboration with Will Smith - and it doesn't quite live up to expectations.
Though there is admiration for Antoine Fuqua's visual vision, Emancipation lacks the subtleties and drive that made his previous movies so remarkable. Instead, Emancipation presents a washed-out aesthetic and hard-hitting story that may not appeal to everyone.
Will Smith's character, Peter, is a runaway slave who escapes his plantation to rejoin his family. Unfortunately, his journey is filled with danger as he must brave warring Union and Confederacy soldiers, the owner of his plantation, an evil slave catcher, as well as other obstacles along the way.
Will Smith is no stranger to physical duress as an actor, as evidenced in his latest feature where he even battles an alligator - though this was likely not intended! This feat will surely leave viewers puzzled and in awe.
Smith's performance is impressive, yet the movie's pacing and reliance on chase film tropes make it hard to fully enjoy. While the first half focuses on Smith's character as she embarks on her journey to Baton Rouge, things quickly shift into action mode when Peter joins a group of escaped slaves to work on a railroad project.
Fuqua's work is reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained (which Smith famously turned down), or Leonardo DiCaprio's brutal portrayal of an enslaved man in The Revenant. No matter why, Smith's portrayal of Peter is compelling and Emancipation is an important film that should be seen.
It's worth noting that, despite its somber subject matter, this film features excellent performances from its cast. They do a remarkable job of depicting the physical toll slavery took on its victims.
Emancipation may not be the most powerful historical film, but it is essential and should be watched. It confronts us with the brutality and dehumanization of slavery, reminding us of its legacy which still influences American society today.
Emancipation is Will Smith's first movie since he slapped Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars. It's an intense chase thriller that could serve as redemption for Smith's actions following the awards show.
It takes an unflinching look at slavery. Directed by Antoine Fuqua and based on the true-life story of Gordon/"Whipped Peter," this film puts a face to slavery's atrocities, especially its brutality against Black men.
Peter is a slave in 1860's Louisiana when he witnesses one atrocity after another. However, when he hears Abraham Lincoln has declared all enslaved people free, Peter sees an opportunity for freedom - so he flees to join the Union army in an effort to secure both his freedom and that of his wife and children.
However, the journey isn't without obstacles. As Peter runs away from Fassel (Ben Foster), Fassel the cruel slave master who wants his skin and everything Peter owns, he must also keep his head down and not give up. In order to survive, Peter must fight to stay alive as Fassel (Ben Foster) pursues him.
"Emancipation," a stylish period drama, successfully blends genres. Will Smith shines in his role as an enslaved man trying to escape and it makes for an intense watch that will leave you with your head in the dirt and tears on your cheeks at times.
Fuqua allows audiences to feel each scar on Peter's body, as well as his heart and soul. That is no easy feat for Smith (who also co-wrote the screenplay), but he manages it admirably.
That is what makes him so captivating: a tough man willing to take risks in order to survive, yet also someone with deep faith which helps him reevaluate his choices.
Fuqua's "Emancipation," while not perfect, still serves as a potent reminder of the ugly side of America's past and present. The movie's scenes depicting grisly enslavement are sobering, while its aggressive tone makes it impossible to turn away from what happens onscreen.