I must admit that I had not the slightest interest in seeing Selma during its theatrical. Truthfully, I really didn’t care to see the film at all, but when a review is needed, a review is needed. I’ve never been a big history buff, either, and find the topic of politics very boring. With that being said, it’s hard to argue with what Martin Luther King stood for. I’m sure if he were around today he’d have less than positive things to say about the riots and killings going on. I won’t dive into that, but that helps Selma at least feel like a relevant film. Notice that I said relevant, but not entertaining. It’s a film I can admire, but didn’t necessarily get much enjoyment from it. The film received a lot of criticism for its portrayal of President Lyndon B. Johnson, played here by Tom Wilkinson. The film does indeed treat him as a villain. It’s not essential that films of this sort act as a documentary, but there’s a fine line by how many liberties one film should take. David Oyelowd does a fine job as King even if the film is largely unfocused.
We begin in 1963 where a bombing kills 4 African-American girls. This sparks outrage and King eventually confronts the President about the deaths of these girls. The President feels there are other issues more important than this, however, and this creates an outrage. This is when King goes to Alabama to protest. As mentioned, the film does feel unfocused at times, but the cast is universally solid all around. The violence is often very intense and might be much for some viewers. Another problem I had was the forcefulness of the story far too often. It can often feel preachy and heavy-handed. I understand that it can be something of a task to depict this story with subtlety, but it became a bit much at times. The film does do a nice job of recreating the 1960’s with the style and specifics to that decade. The scenes between King and Johnson created a problem for me. It feels overly dramatic and awkward at times. That’s where a more subtle approach might’ve helped matters. Selma might be best suited for those who want to learn more about Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. I’m sure history teachers could show the film to students and create some good discussion on the topic. Still, it didn’t do a lot for me.
Video: How’s it look?
Presented in a wide 2.40:1 AVC HD transfer, Selma actually looks pretty good though a few instances in some selected scenes detract from a higher score. Perhaps it was me, but I felt that the color seemed a bit off in a few sequences – particularly towards the end. Again, maybe it’s a placebo effect but contrast and black levels were strong throughout, it just didn’t seem as indicative a transfer as we’re used to expecting. Certainly detail is right on target and the movie does have a very “film” like look and feel, but there just seemed to be something…missing.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The DTS HD Master Audio track certainly delivers the goods. As one might imagine, this is a dialogue-heavy film and vocals are faithfully represented with the utmost tone and accuracy. Surrounds play a part in some scenes, though never too active they do add a bit of depth to some scenes of action. By and large, the front stage gets the lion’s share of the audio. It’s an above average track, but nothing too terribly memorable.
Supplements: What are the extras?
One thing that’s not really included on the disc (and if it was, I couldn’t find it) is that this movie is going to be given to every high school in the United States for students to watch. I think that’s pretty cool and certainly it’ll bring the film to an audience that might otherwise be playing games on their cell phones. Moving along, the disc contains a lot of notable features, so let’s take a look.
Audio Commentary – Director Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo collaborate for a pretty interesting and informative track. Details about the film’s theme, some of the locales used to shoot and some other tidbits about the cast and crew make for an interesting listen.
Audio Commentary – Ava DuVernay is joined by Director of Photography Bradford Young, and Editor Spencer Averick for a much more technical track that’s dedicated to some of the shots, how they were done as well as how some of the key sequences were edited.
The Road to Selma – Pretty much an all encompassing look at the film, its journey to the screen, some of the principal actors and other influences (read: Oprah) involvement as well as some other facts about bringing this to the screen.
Recreating Selma – A more visual look at the film as some of the shots were discussed, the cast and crew and their resemblance to their real-life counterparts and the like.
Deleted and Extended Scenes – A dozen in all, though after viewing them I really felt that their absence wasn’t really missed.
Music Video – “Glory.”
Historical – Some historical news footage along with a gallery of images are included.
Selma Student Tickets: Donor Appreciation – Supporters of the Selma Student Ticket Initiative are featured.
National Voting Rights Museum and Institute – We get a brief glimpse inside the museum which looks to be very interesting.
Selma Discussion Guide – Obviously geared at the education point of view, this is pretty much just that – a list of facts about the film.
DVD/Digital HD Copy
The Bottom Line
It earned a lot of praise (and some criticism), but Selma just simply didn’t do much for me. The performances are top notch and the 60’s are successfully recreated, but the story is largely unfocused.