Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Great Debaters, dir. Denzel Washington, wr. Jeffrey Porro, Robert Eisele, st. Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Nate Parker, Jurnee Smollett, Denzel Whitaker

Written by The Equaliser and Cagney And Lacey writer Robert Eisele, produced by Oprah's Harpo Productions and directed with a fierce passion by Washington, this tale of the Wiley Collage Debating Team and their struggle with prejudice and racial discrimination in the American South in the 1930s is everything you might expect and hope it to be given the powerhouse production team behind it. Washington's portrayal is exemplary in its control and delivery, furthering the case for his nomination as one of the finest actors of his generation. Here, his Melvin B. Tolson is calm, erudite, aggressively protective and nurturing of his students. It's a performance that many might feel is stabilised by the effectively simple triumph-over-adversity construct, or James Newton Howard's soaringly empathic score, and indeed the film is peppered with stirring Shawshanky literary quotes pertaining to freedom and injustice, but the lasting effect is nonetheless of a solidly virtuous film.  Like all good dramas of this ilk, the triumphant conclusion is a little predictable, but it's absolved thanks to its extraordinary historical backstory.