‘Harriet’ Review – A Real Life Superhero Origin Story

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Cynthia Erivo stars as Harriet Tubman in HARRIET, a Focus Features release.  
Credit: Glen Wilson / Focus Features

Synopsis:

From her escape from slavery through the dangerous missions she led to liberate hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad, the story of heroic abolitionist Harriet Tubman is told.

Harriet Tubman is one of the most badass women to ever walk the earth. To capture her strength, perseverance, and valor is no easy task. Harriet was able to resurrect the spirit of Ms. Tubman and tell a story that everyone should learn. The story is insane and the fact that it actually happened is even more insane. Let me start by saying, I almost didn’t attend the screening of Harriet. While Harriet Tubman is a monumental historical figure and hero, I’m not a fan of films that are heavily filled with slavery. As an African American, it’s a rather painful and angering visual. Especially, when you know that some people in 2019 would prefer someone like you to be in chains. Nevertheless, I decided to go with an open mind, hoping to see something that I wasn’t expecting. Indeed, that’s exactly what I got. While being biographical, it didn’t feel like a normal biopic that tries to prove that it knows information that the viewer doesn’t. This film focused on historical accuracy and presenting us with who and how exactly Harriet Tubman was. It’s a real-life superhero origin story. The way the screenplay was written resulted in the film feeling like a dramatic adventure or a thriller, very palatable for everyone. An added bonus is that while slavery plays a role, as it is a driving force for what she did, it was not a focal point. However, I was balling up my fist during many scenes. If you leave the theater without feeling anything, then something is wrong. For me, this film is one that evokes introspection. Not only does it remind me of how ugly our past was and how far we’ve come but it shows that one person can truly change the world. We learn this section of history in school but never in this much detail, therefore, this should be seen by all generations. It can be enjoyed by those who know her story, those who forgot, and those who didn’t pay attention. There wasn’t much I didn’t like, but there were a few somewhat comical moments that I didn’t feel were necessary. Yet, it may have been to give us a slight break from the drama. I also thought they could’ve gone more in-depth on some of her rescues or her contribution as a spy for the Union Army. Apart from that, I left with a fist in the air and a renewed vigor to stand for what I believe in.

HARRIET

Plot & Pace

The film moves along at a surprisingly thriller-like pace, making you almost forget that this is a historical picture. Starting off with an enslaved Harriet who hasn’t acquired the name yet. Focusing on the tail end of her time in bondage, then quickly moving onto her life as the hero she is to become. We get to know the true character and motivation that drove her to become who we know her as today. Her faith and premonitions are on full display and play a huge role in guiding her and the story along. Furthermore, the film displays her awe-inspiring journey to freedom that most could never make alone. Also, showing her multiple journies to save others from a life of hellish enslavement. With only a touch of artistic freedom, the film is historically accurate and incredibly gripping. In addition, it exposes the ugly truth that we’re not all fighting the same fight and some will do anything for money. This film incites cheers, tears, and being uncomfortable as it should.

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Characters & Chemistry

Cynthia Erivo as Harriet commands the screen as well as respect from those around her. Never forgetting what she has been through, she pushes those around her to heights they never thought possible. Her bravery and selflessness are unmatched and unforgettable. Her chemistry with William Still (Leslie Odom Jr.) feels effortlessly genuine as he is truly amazed and inspired by Harriet. The relationship with Marie Buchanon (Janelle Monae) marked a turning point for me in the film, as she instilled confidence in Harriet and gave her tools to prevail. Joe Alwyn plays Gideon Brodess and he did such a good job that he’s going to have to catch these hands if we meet. Omar J. Dorsey as Bigger Long infuriated me therefore, he also has to catch these hands as well. I’m joking of course… maybe. The entire cast did an amazing job bringing this story to life and they deserve whatever awards they win.

Harriet releases in theaters November 1st. Enjoy your time at the movies.

Director: Kasi Lemmons

Rated: PG-13

Runtime: 2h 5m

Rating: 4 out of 5