• Guy Jeffries

The Birth of a Nation Review


Director: Nate Parker

Starring: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller, Jackie Earle Haley, Mark Boone Junior, Gabrielle Union, Colman Domingo, Dwight Henry, Aunjanue Ellis, Roger Guenveur Smith, Esther Scott.

Nate Parker gives us his directorial debut about fellow Virginia, Nat Turner, a literate, enslaved African American who instigated a rebellion against their oppressors across Southampton county back in 1831. As with many actors who turn to directing for the first time, Parker, like them, also portrays the lead role.

The film's entire focus is on Nat Turner, given a brief glimpse of his childhood, we're then up to speed with him as a young adult plantation slave, serving the Turner family who appear to be a compassionate one and actually educate Nat in the verses of the Bible.

It's a bleak and often horrid account of the exploitation and oppression the slaves had back then, being stripped of their basic human rights and any self worth. Though Nat being considered fortunate among his brethren, while the rest of the counties, and quite possibly the majority of the states beat, rape and kill creating them lesser than dogs.

His bible studies lead him to preach, eventually being another commodity exploited by his drunken master, in an attempt to calm disobedience among their neighbouring plots. Coupled with some atrocious incidents, this preaching turns him into a Joan of Arc of Virginia, believing God had instructed him to act in the form of spiritual visions.

It's an impressive directorial debut from Parker, with some great visuals, surreal at times and quite surprised to read the film was only shot in 27 days. Parkers performance is strong and reminded me of actors like Jamie Foxx or Denzel Washington. Supporting cast such as Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller and Gabrielle Union actually have little part when in comparison but do their bit well.

Henry Jackman provides an amazing score, it's unlike his other work I'm fond of. Incorporating strings, piano and a choir, he gives the film the right spiritual tone. However, it has an interesting, inspired soundtrack, with Nina Simone's "Strange Fruit" playing on the film, other artists like Naz, Lil' Wayne, Ne-Yo, Trey Songz and 2 Chainz are on the soundtrack. Not saying it doesn't work, but it's hardly fitting for the period piece.

Unfortunately, the film loses its way, lacking the impact the story possibly deserves, missing details and connection to its title. There's some great capture but some not so good too and it becomes rushed, disjointed and anticlimactic. I think it attempts to be an American Braveheart, a worthy try, but ultimately underwhelming and uninspiring.

Running Time: 7

The Cast: 8

Performance: 7

Direction: 7

Story: 8

Script: 7

Creativity: 7

Soundtrack: 7

Job Description: 4

The Extra Bonus Point: 0

Would I buy the Blu-ray?: Sadly, no.

62% 6/10

#NateParker #ArmieHammer #PenelopeAnnMiller #JackieEarleHaley #MarkBooneJunior #GabrielleUnion #ColmanDomingo #DwightHenry #AunjanueEllis #RogerGuenveurSmith #EstherScott #HenryJackman