At the height of the Civil War, US President Abraham Lincoln abolishes slavery in the country. This does not prevent the guardians of the old order from separating a native of Haiti, Peter Gordon (Smith) from his family and forcing him to work for the army of the South. Hoping for God, Lincoln, and himself at the same time, a real-life hero goes on the run while a ruthless hunter (Ben Foster) is on his trail.

Will Smith as Peter in a still from Emancipation
Will Smith as Peter in a still from Emancipation

Rarely has the concept of “Oscar bait” had such mixed potential. On the one hand, Emancipation and streaming service Apple TV+ expected to release the film immediately after Will Smith’s triumph with King Richard. It didn’t work out: at the end of March, Smith receives a statuette, but before that, he snaps at Chris Rock because of a joke about his wife and gets into the “black list” of the academy for ten years. “Emancipation” calls not to rush to conclusions, returns the actor to the screen with a convincing action role, but it is hardly capable of becoming something more than a speculation of the main star.

Helping to clean up Smith’s image is the director of “Training Day” and “The Equalizer” Antoine Fuqua. Producers receive an impressive budget of $120 million and go to the fields of ruthless Louisiana of the 19th century. Peter washes his wife’s feet and promises that the Lord sees everything, which means that soon, despite all the racist intrigues of evil, they will definitely be reunited. It takes 40 minutes to prepare the hero for the escape, after which the escape itself starts in the format of a predictable thriller: drones will skillfully shoot a Hollywood actor heroically moving through the swamp, show a battle with a crocodile, surprise with the disproportionate timing and history, which is revealed the same 40 minutes before the finale. But the main logically inexplicable decision is to lower the color saturation to zero, to strike on the spot with coldness, to discourage the viewer from any desire to watch to the climax.

Sharmen Bingwa on the frame from the movie Emancipation
Sharmen Bingwa on the frame from the movie “Emancipation”

Whether Fuqua himself is interested in the film is no less a burning question. In addition to the obvious financial advantages, the artisan director gathers a good team of artists, but absolutely does not see Bill Collage (Assassin’s Creed, Exodus: Kings and Gods) in the script and a share of enthusiasm with ideology. Admiring Smith comes to a headache and gnashing of teeth, another digression into the past turns into a discolored fair with demonstrative flogging, cruelty, and a variety of murders. Ben Foster as the main antagonist appears to be a walking stereotype, and even the natural talent of the actor is not able to atone for this. The villain dies no less absurdly and not even at the hands of the hero. Of interest is only the scene that recreates the historical portrait of Peter’s scarred back, which speaks of slavery much more than the film based on it.

Fuqua pursues neither educational nor aesthetic goals, choosing the path of least resistance, which the object of his narrative would hardly be happy about. Therefore, for all those who are hungry and ready for emotional devastation, it remains to advise projects that need no introduction by Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) or Barry Jenkins (“The Underground Railroad” series).


  1. I didn’t have high expectations from the Emancipation, maybe that’s why it left a good impression on me. I expected to see something like 12 Years a Slave, with a minimum of action and a lot of pretentious words, but the picture of Antoine Fuqua pleasantly surprised me, I won’t say that the movie is a masterpiece that everyone must see, but still it turned out to be quite a strong dramatic story on the theme of slavery.
     From the very beginning, the author plunges into a dramatic story, where slaves are very much bullied, there is a lot of action and struggle, bullying and attitude as a thing are shown quite realistically. There were also battle scenes that leave a good impression, there were many hard and cruel moments. The author managed to arouse the maximum dislike for slavery and everything that happens in it. The movie was shot with great drama and pain, and there is a lot of pain in the film. And not only physical, but also psychological.

     Of course, initially the viewing was interesting to me largely because of Will Smith, who knows how to play dramatic roles, but after watching I can say the story itself, the action and pain are shown very realistically and it evokes emotions. The author showed cruelty very colorfully to disgust. The masters and slaves perform their roles perfectly, you trust someone, someone is unpleasant for you, the film does not cause indifference.

     Will Smith. In 2012, he refused to play in the film Django Unchained, and 10 years later he still plays a slave and plays quite well. Peter fell in love from the first frame, and not only because he is played by Will, in general, the character is very persistent, courageous, courageous and fearless, who from the very beginning fights for himself and what is dear to him, his struggle deserves the most flattering words. His faith in God, when everything is bad, also liked. His character goes through different dramatic moments. Will plays with his heart and soul again.

     Ben Foster. Ben goes for negative characters, he knows how to enjoy the worst sides of his heroes. Fassel is a very cruel one who enjoys the suffering of his victims. He is a real hunter, he does not like to just kill, he does it with great pleasure and hypocrisy. I liked his confrontation with Will, but I expected a slightly different ending of course between them.

     Liberation is certainly not a masterpiece, but a strong enough drama, in which there is a lot of action, pain, drama and of course struggle, and not only the main character, although Will Smith is very good and it was interesting to look at his path, but the story itself captures no less. A movie worth watching at least once.

  2. When back and forth, where back on rewind.

    Will Smith played a runaway slave named Peter who escaped from the Confederate conscripted slave labor force during the American Civil War. Fugitive hunter Fassel and company are sent in pursuit of him.

     The painting follows a pattern. The protagonist in the process of the whole film in various ways tries to break away from the chase. There are dozens of such films. It’s kind of like Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto. There, the main character tries to return to his family. In this film, the hero is also trying to return to his family, only he acts according to the method of Daenerys Targaryen – ‘to get to the west, you need to go to the east’. Our hero runs to Lincoln’s army, as he allegedly declared freedom to all slaves. Accordingly, it follows that Lincoln’s army is not the ultimate goal of the protagonist. So it turned out, but the problem is that the film devotes very little time to the end goal, concentrating on how our hero saves his life, crawling through the swamps of the south. If the authors had devoted half of the film to the way back, it would have looked like something new. Even the splendid Lord of the Rings trilogy did not take the time to return, nor did the Hobbit trilogy, although Bilbo, then Frodo, and then Sam wrote a book about their travels called The Hobbit, There and Back Again and The Lord of the Rings.

     Therefore, the film is not memorable. Unless the camera work together with the production designers pleased the eye, although it was not for long, to my bitter regret! The women’s line is the main reason why all boron cheese does not work well at all. The reason for the family is clear only for the hero, and not for the viewer. The viewer also needs to understand the purpose of the protagonist, as he needs to empathize with someone, but how to do this when the family is present only for the cliché? The hunter Fassel is also needed in the same way, only for someone to chase the hero.

     And Smith’s signature acting technique – tears on a calm face – cannot always help out films. Give me a plot!  

     6 out of 10

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