The Birth of a Nation (2016)
The Birth of a Nation follows Nat Turner (Nate Parker), a slave who can read and write. When his master becomes desperate for money to keep the plantation alive, Nat is taken around the South to preach in order to keep plantation slaves calm, but when too many wrongs go unpunished, Nat orchestrates an uprising in order to fight for freedom.
There have been many movies about slavery, and most of them are good. When dealing with a touchy subject like this, you can’t afford to put out a movie that is bad about slavery. Recently, 12 Years a Slave won best picture in 2013 for a movie about slavery and the realistic nature of what those people went through. It is a powerful movie and so emotional that I don’t see how anyone can watch it twice. The Birth of a Nation feels very similar to that movie, but on a lesser scale. The violence and intensity are less due to the fact that the movie is about a preacher teaching the word of God. There are some moments that get tense and emotional, but overall the nightmarish actions are tamed down.
The last 30 minutes of the movie is when things get a little out of hand. I know this is based on a true story but when the movie feels like a drama for 1.5 hours and then turn into an action film, it feels a little much. The violence is also something that could have been toned down. This movie literally goes from a movie about slavery to a movie about killing anything that moves, and for some that is going to be off putting as the message feels like it gets lost.
At the end of the day, The Birth of a Nation might not be the next 12 Years a Slave, but it has a message it wants to send. It takes the topic of slavery seriously and it paints a very good picture of what happened back then. The flaws stem from the fact that this movie forgets that it is about slavery towards the end and becomes about revenge and “getting back” at the people who did these people wrong. Now, don’t misunderstand, I would have done the same things as these people did, but when the point of the movie is about freedom and slavery, I don’t feel like the ending captured this well. Either way you look at it, The Birth of a Nation is a movie about slavery that I could see people watching again, unlike 12 Years, so that is something to think about. Co-starring Armie Hammer, Jackie Earle Haley, Aja Naomi King, Aunjanue Ellis, Coleman Domingo, Dwight Henry, Ester Scott, Mark Boone Jr., and Penelope Ann Miller.
7/10 Stars – Might not be as impactful or realistic as 12 Years a Slave, Birth of a Nation tells its story well even if the ending is a bit over the top.