The Birth of a Nation

"Very Good"

The Birth of a Nation Review


This true story from 19th century America feels eerily relevant today in its depiction of the divisions that define society. It's an engaging film, sharply written and directed by actor Nate Parker to pull the audience into the world of a black preacher whose conscience simply can't take the injustice any longer. Some of the themes feel a little pushy, but the film has real power.

It opens in 1809 Virginia, where the soft-spoken Nat (Parker) works as a slave for benevolent owner Sam (Armie Hammer). The two grew up together, so Sam is familiar with Nat's intelligence and passion, and also with the fact that Sam's mother (Penelope Ann Miller) encouraged Nat to read and study the Bible. In fact, Nat is such a great preacher that Sam loans him to fellow slave owners to convey the Old Testament "slaves obey your owners" message. But Nat realises that he can't continue with this after his wife Cherry (Aja Naomi King) is brutally attacked by the cruel slave tracker Cobb (Jackie Earle Haley). And once Nat decides he can no longer support the immorality and injustice of the system, he has little choice but to lead a slave revolt.

Parker's script recounts Nat's life story with telling details, contrasting his engaging courtship with Cherry with the series of insults they suffer at every turn. Living amid such systemic degradation, exploitation and violence simply gnaws away at Nat, and Parker underplays him beautifully, letting the charisma surge quietly under the surface. Hammer is solid as Sam, although his innate compassion leaves Haley to play the villain of the piece. As always, Haley is great at this, igniting loathing from the audience with his first appearance. All of the surrounding characters are played with a lovely sense of realism, adding hints of texture to each scene but never too much personality.

This was clearly a physically demanding film to make, as each of the actors puts his or her body and soul into the project. And as it goes along, the story finds present-day parallels at every turn. For one thing, it's set in a society in which a minority of rich people live off the struggling masses who generate the wealth but get little of it themselves. And it clearly shows how the seeds of injustice were planted that have grown into such serious turmoil in America today. Parker never quite takes this to its logical, dark conclusion, kind of sidestepping the true atrocities of the real events. But this is still an important story that needs to be told.

Watch the trailer for Birth Of A Nation:



Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 165 mins

Budget: $10M

Distributed by: Gravitas

Production compaines: Phantom Four, Mandalay Pictures, Bron Studios, Tiny Giant Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , Jason Michael Berman, Aaron L. Gilbert, Preston L. Holmes, Kevin Turen

Starring: as Nat Turner, as Samuel Turner, Aja Naomi King as Cherry, as Elizabeth Turner, as Nancy Turner, as Isaac Turner, Esther Scott as Bridget Turner, as Isaiah, Jeryl Prescott as Janice, as Hark, Dominic Bogart as Hank Fowler, as Joseph Randall, Katie Garfield as Catherine Turner, Chiké Okonkwo as Will, Tony Espinosa as Young Nat Turner, Jayson Warner Smith as Earl Fowler, Kai Norris as Jasper, Chris Greene as Nelson, Kelvin Harrison as Simon, Steve Coulter as General Childs, Justin Randell Brooke as Guiles Reese, Aiden Flowers as Young John Clarke, Dane Davenport as John Clarke Turner, Ryan Mulkay as Jesse, Allen Phoenix as Abner, Vincent Anthony as Fowler Slave, Bobby Batson as Little boy, Damon Bellmon as Turner Hideaway, Gregory Black as Rebel Slave, Bradley Bowen as Militia General, Alkoya Brunson as Young Hark, Anthony Bryant as Rebel Slave, Victoria Budkey as Lynch Mob, Sheila Cochran as General Child's Wife, Logan Coffey as Son, Kemuel Crossty as Rebel Man, Nicole Davis as Angel, Morgen Dukes as Kid, Shannon Edwards as Farmer

Contactmusic


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