Nate Parker’s charismatic performance makes The Birth of a Nation shine through its dark subject matter
The Birth of a Nation is another slavery movie. With movies like 12 Years a Slave making a big splash at the Oscars, Nate Parker comes in with his take on the slave rebellion. Living in a time with the very controversial Black Lives Matter movement and a revival of racism, The Birth of a Nation may be just the movie make people see just how horrific slavery was. A frightening look into what it meant to be a slave in the 1800s and The Birth of a Nation is here to remind us all just how horrible it was. Shocking and disturbing imagery helps Nate Parker’s competent directing to achieve a movie that may not be as good as other slave movies but just as important.
Nation is based on actual events surrounding a preacher named Nat Turner (Nate Parker). His faith mixed with the disturbing actions he witnesses makes him take serious action against the white people that are responsible for these very actions. Nat Turner was a real slave and a real preacher. Nate Parker portrays this character with lots charisma and passion. You can tell that Parker has this interest and this duty to tell this story. Sometimes you feel that Nate Parker gave his all for the movie.
The best thing that Parker does is showcasing the horrors of slavery. Imageries that suggests rape, torture and assault are sprinkled all over the film. The perturbing images do their job. They are shocking and thought-provoking. You can’t say the same for the odd metaphorical imageries who added nothing to the movie. They felt out of place and took away from the story Parker was trying to tell. They weren’t as impactful as the slavery images, and you could see the difference.
Disappointing is that some plot points slow down the main story. The love story between Turner and a new slave feels forced and isn’t as compelling as the rest of the story. Every time the movie went into the love story, there was a change in pace and tone. The story overall, while good, consistently went back to cliche storytelling. It was things we’ve seen from other drama and action movies.
A critical time in history it is, but The Birth of a Nation is drowning in many flaws. Parker’s inconsistent inspiredness and the constant fall back on cliches makes the movie not as good as other slave movies. It becomes a matter of how many impactful moments Nation offers, and it is more times than the reverse. The shocking imageries keep this film from total fail. The critics at Cannes maybe thought it was an important movie people should see, but no matter how important a story may be, it doesn’t change the fact that The Birth of a Nation is not as good as they want it to be.