When this film first premiered at Sundance with the biggest ever purchase agreement, I was very surprised, thinking that it was a remake of D.W. Griffith's racist film from 1916. When I found out its true premise, though, I became excited to see it, however, when the film came out in theaters, I couldn't see it due to a combination of circumstances (including Hurricane Matthew and a short theatrical lifespan due to rape controversy). When it came out on digital, I soon bought it, and enjoyed it quite a bit.
This film was once considered one of the Best Picture frontrunners, and I completely understand why. It's a well-made historical drama, which always hits with the Academy, and the story is extremely moving. The character development alone is phenomenal. The pacing of the film is also excellent, moving the story along at a pace that keeps the audience interested. There are a few moments that feel rushed, like Turner's rebellion itself, but I think that was a purposeful decision. The scene is quite brutal, and the amount of violence shown is just right to elicit an emotional reaction from the audience.
Other choices made by the director are great to build the film. There is often use of contrapuntal sound, which creates a feeling of discomfort and a deep pang of sympathy for the characters. Everything that is seen on screen is obviously designed to make the audience sympathize with Nat Turner, and I think that it is done so brilliantly. The acting is great, especially by Parker, who completely nails the role of the protagonist. Armie Hammer and Jackie Earle Haley are also very good in their antagonistic roles. The film also adds some interesting supernatural elements to the tried-and-true historical biopic formula, and although they could have been explored a bit more, I think that they work very well.
I actually really loved "The Birth of a Nation". I think that it is a well-made historical film with an interesting story that is phenomenally told. It is a shame that its quality was overshadowed by the controversy surrounding the allegations against its director.
The Birth of a Nation
Big Tuna's Rating: A
How Did I Watch It?: Digital that I own.
Had I Seen It Before?: No.
Would I Watch It Again?: Yes.
I am a huge movie fan that wants to tell people about my very varying taste and opinion of film.