A decent action film with a lead who deserves another chance.
As you know, at the Oscars when Chris Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith being cast in “G.I. Jane 2,” because of her shaved head, which resulted in her husband Will Smith walking up on stage and slapping Rock. “Keep my wife’s name out your F-ing mouth!!” is what he shouted. And even when he apologized stating he was defending his family, he was banned from the Oscars for ten years and people had been questioning his behavior as a leading man and person.
I think we should just put this behind us, because sh*t happens and he was defending his family. Besides it’s not like he killed anyone. Be grateful for that.
That’s just me venting. I don’t care what you people think. Suck it up, and move on.
Anyway, his latest lead role in “Emancipation” was originally considered for a 2023 release, so this can’t compete for the Oscars and to keep the AppleTV+ schedule in balance. But somehow, they can around for a December release this year. Smith wanted to promote this film, not because he was in it, but because of its powerful impacts on slavery. He deserves another chance as a leading man. As a film about slavery, it’s far cry from “12 Years a Slave” in terms of its screenplay, but as an action film, it has its entertainment value.
The story takes place just as the Emancipation Proclamation was kicking in, and not every state got the message that Abe Lincoln abolished slavery. It’s also based on the true story of how Gordon escaped slavery, joined the army, and his photographed featured his heavily scourged back from whippings was proof of how horrible slavery was.
In this movie, he’s named Peter, and Will Smith plays him as he is taken away from his family to another plantation. He hears word about Lincoln’s proclamation, and must embark on a long journey through the Louisiana swamps to get help from the Union army. To keep bloodhounds off his scent, he wipes his body with onions, since they can’t smell them. That’s one of the ways he’s able to use his common sense.
The main antagonist of the film is a plantation overseer named Fassel (Ben Foster), who intends to capture this runaway slave. He doesn’t have much to his character, other than how he’s impressed by his survival skills, and how when he was a child, he was scolded for giving food to a hungry slave.
There are other challenges on the trek, like alligators, little girls ratting out this runaway, and Fassel’s goons. But Peter is able to overcome these obstacles.
The colors in Robert Richardson’s cinematography and Antoine Fuqua’s direction look so bleak, it almost looks like “Emancipation” was shot in black-and-white. It must represent the horrors of slavery, and when our hero must fight in the Civil War.
A real difference between “Emancipation” and “12 Years a Slave” is that the former glamorizes the subject a bit, while the latter took it seriously. It’s far cry from that Oscar-winning tour-de-force (which also made my Best of 2010s list), but it still keeps you watching.
Despite the public outcry, I still think Smith commits to his role with sincerity and humanity to his character, and he doesn’t want anyone to think he’s the star of the show. It may be a leading role, but he isn’t self-congratulatory about it. I don’t care if society has turned their backs on him; I still think he deserves another chance. Let’s live and let die.
In Select Theaters Tomorrow
Streaming on AppleTV+ December 9