Thursday, March 26, 2020

Review: Harriet

Release date: November 1, 2019
Running time: 125 minutes
Starring: Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn 

Harriet is a slightly Hollywood-ized biopic of the famous Harriet Tubman.  However, unlike many of the tales we learned growing up, this movie portrays Harriet (Erivo) as a devoutly religious, strong willed, and steely resolved woman who was hell bent on freeing as many slaves as possible.  And amazingly, this is the more accurate version of the historical figure.  Although some characters and events were created for the movie, a lot of the more remarkable aspects of Tubman's life are portrayed accurately and should provide a new take on this woman that everyone has learned about. 

Harriet is portrayed by Cynthia Erivo in an Oscar-worthy performance.  She portrays Tubman as a fierce, driven, and fearless woman who ventures many times to the south to free slaves.  She frees so many slaves that a bounty is placed on her head and she is given the nickname "Moses."  Erivo's performance is strong and according to some quick research, fairly accurate.  One aspect of this film that I appreciated was that it portrayed Tubman's visions, which she believed were from God.  I did not realize that she had this, nor how deeply religious she was, and seeing this on screen was a nice lesson for me.  The acting is strong across the board in this movie, but Erivo is really the star of the show.

And the story of Harriet, despite having a few Hollywood changes, is riveting and will keep you engaged throughout the relatively long film.  And that is helped along by a stellar score that makes the action scenes more exciting and the serious scenes that much more emotional.  It really is a testament to this film that everything is done right.  And that includes portraying the United States at the time.  The movie does a good job of portraying just how hopeless life was for African Americans, slave or free, at the time.  It doesn't portray it as brutally as other movies have (such as in 12 Years a Slave), but it also doesn't pull any punches.  There are descriptions of the treatment, scars on the current and former slaves, and just a general disregard for human life that come across vividly in the film. 

Harriet tells the compelling story of an influential woman with Oscar-worthy acting, an exciting and heartbreaking script, and a stellar score.   

Watch it.

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