By David Lee Zamora
Special to the Parade
Harriet is a thrilling and exciting film filled with powerful acting that tells the story of Harriet Tubman (Cynthia Erivo) and her journey from slave to one of America’s greatest abolitionists.
The film starts by showing Harriet dealing with her struggles as a slave. This portion of the film really sets the tone, by showing how cruel the plantation owner is, by denying her and her mother’s freedom that his father had promised. Eventually, Tubman escapes and becomes the famed abolitionist that we all know and love. This is when the film starts to get thrilling, by showing her on her missions. She’s risking her freedom and life to save her friends and family, and I could feel the tension of the looming threat of capture on the horizon, even though I knew she wasn’t going to be captured, because I learned about in history class.
Like I mentioned earlier, the acting in this film is phenomenal, especially from the films villains. For example, the film’s main protagonist, Gideon Brodess’ (Joe Alwyn) father, who’s the owner of the plantation, and is only in the film for a couple minutes, with his handful of lines, I instantly hated him and felt nothing but disgust for him and his family. Gideon is also a perfect villain that makes me cringe in disgust every time I see him, due to his spoiled and disgusting attitude towards Tubman, treating her like his favorite pet. Bigger Long (Omar J. Dorsey), a black slave hunter, is one of the most disturbing characters in the film. He’s a class traitor trying to hunt down Tubman. Cynthia’s portrayal of Tubman is incredibly powerful, especially the way she delivers her lines and acts. She definitely stood out from everybody else in the film, due to her intensity.
Harriet does have some characters that don’t feel fleshed out, like her first husband, who feels like a plot device rather than a character; or Bigger Longs’ partner, Walter (Henry Hunter Hall), who seems like he’s going to be a huge protagonist, due to all the long close up shots of him, but ends up helping Harriet and only showing up here and there in the film.
To be honest, I really didn’t love this film, due to the fact that I don’t usually like most historical films, but I can’t deny how good this film is, with its clear passion that the cast and crew put into it to continue to tell this great woman’s tale.