Director Antoine Fuqua delivers a historic and realistic adventure that moves quickly. Emancipation is a film that consists of power, freedom, liberty, and perseverance. Will Smith is a machine for survival and Ben Foster is a monster of cruelty. Emancipation tests the limits of fate to the fullest. It has been a while since there has been a thriller set in the Civil War era. Fuqua portrays the power of authority among slaves and commanders in Emancipation.
My fascination with Emancipation is its surreal perspective. The film begins with many slavery settings and scenarios. There are also conversations between slaves regarding escaping, the politics of escaping, and where the slaves stand. Emancipation lays out the foundation in a realistic setting. The film creates a thorough understanding of how cruel slave owners are and why slaves want to escape. I am a fan of Abraham Lincoln, and Lincoln’s destinations are where the slaves try to escape to. In the film it is stated, “Lincoln freed the slaves.” If the slaves can make it to freedom, they have a chance to live new lives.
In Emancipation, the main slave is Peter (Smith), a man who has been a slave for most of his life and is anxious to find freedom. He wants to make it back to his wife Dodienne (played by Charmaine Bingwa). Peter takes the chance of surviving an attempted escape that is treacherous due to many dangerous factors. Despite the severities of the danger, there are benefits for him. As he escapes through the swamps of Louisiana, there are alligators, snakes, and all kinds of creatures. On top of that, the commander, Jim Fassel (played by Ben Foster) is onto him. The running goes on for days, and Peter must reach Lincoln’s territory. Emancipation is one epic and gruesome trail to where freedom awaits.
As the fate of survival is tested in this movie, I realized that Emancipation depicts nature’s uncharted territory. A swamp always has dangers. As Peter progresses through risking his life for freedom, there is always a chance of injury, death, or capture. Fuqua’s directing includes cinematography in black and white in many scenes and alternatively color in moments of action. The black and white is use when covering moments in time and color comes along in moments when there is an event.
I found these contrasts helpful because when the cinematography would light up in color, my mind would be alerted to a new event. When the film was in black and white, my mind would be alerted that this was a normal time frame. Fuqua is faithful in his artistic direction mixed with history, violence, and slavery. He is an auteur at adding layers of heightening factors in his films. Emancipation goes off the charts with vivid layers of suspenseful cinematography.
Emancipation is just pure adrenaline. The limits of survival are tested as is political power. Fuqua incorporates the harsh mindsets of those who are slave owners in the film. He also incorporates the fierceness of Peter. Smith’s performance is astonishing as viewers know he will not give up. A journey spent fighting the violent territory and terrors of a swamp is what makes Emancipation a dramatic yet invigorating ride.
I love Civil War history and especially love a film set in Lincoln’s era. Above all, I loved this film because it portrays slaves fighting for liberty during Lincoln’s presidency. Emancipation is empowering, surreal, and deep. Smith and Foster deliver thought-provoking performances. Fuqua’s directing goes to a whole different level of excitement with Emancipation. Three and a half stars.