Harriet [2019] (Movie Review)

Film review: All aboard the freedom train with “Harriet ...

Plot Summary

Harriet Tubman was a Civil War hero although many did not initially regard her in that way. While she was raised as a slave on a Maryland plantation, she heard God call her one day to leave and run to freedom. With the help of her pastor, Harriet persevered through perilous circumstances to reach the free state of Pennsylvania, but it was there where her real work began. She knew God had called her to free slaves on her own…starting with her family… even though the Philadelphia abolitionists were reluctant to help. In the end, Harriet’s obedience to God left a lasting mark on American history.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a well-funded, mainstream project, Harriet sports very high production quality with very few errors to note. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are exceptionally high, and the soundtrack is excellent at tying the movie together, including using real-life singing that was historically authentic. The sets, locations, and props are realistic and well-utilized, and the production overall has a gritty feel to it that shows attention to detail and care for accuracy. The only small concern to point out relates to some slightly choppy editing, but this also pertains to the storyline. As a whole, however, this is a highly professional offering.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The true story of Harriet Tubman was definitely one that was long overdue to be put into movie form. In this rendition, the characters are very well-developed through believable and accessible dialogue, and the high number of them is handled well as even the minor characters are given efficiently used scenes. Also, the major element of Harriet’s faith in and relationship with God is well-integrated throughout the narrative and is presented at face-value so that the viewers can decide for themselves. Other themes are creatively interwoven throughout the plot to tie together an epic biopic that was likely difficult to effectively condense. Moreover, the sheer amount of content covered in this movie does pose a problem that creates some choppiness in the storyline. It would have been better for Harriet to be presented in a non-linear style so that the story didn’t simply jump from one high point to another. Another pitfall of this section is the fact that some of the writing went out of its way to include unnecessarily edgy content (although some of it is unfortunately realistic) and slightly extreme language (though some is still authentic). Nevertheless, despite these shortcomings, this narrative is still high quality and leaves a lasting impact on the viewers.

Acting Quality (3 points)

With professional acting and directing, Harriet has virtually no flaws in this category. The costuming is period-accurate and reflects attention to detail. Line delivery is on point, and emotions are very accessible. Thus, this rounds out an encouraging effort and completes this film’s campaign for the Hall of Fame.

Conclusion

Harriet also receives an x-factor point for being re-watchable and for tackling a highly relevant topic in a memorable way. One thing to note is that this movie could have been even better in the hands of different directors who could have portrayed the story in a more Christian manner, but the current market was unfortunately not suitable for this to happen. Nonetheless, this creative team did enough to preserve Tubman’s Christian worldview and to make this a high-level screenplay, which caused it to earn a spot on the Hall of Fame. Therefore, we highly recommend it for appropriate audiences.

Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

Unbroken: Path to Redemption (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After surviving months being stranded at sea and being tortured in a cruel Japanese prison camp, Louis Zamperini was finally returned home as a war hero.  His family celebrated his safe return, but little did anyone know that the war still raged in Louis’ mind.  His lead torturer, The Bird, never left his dreams, and hate burned inside of him.  Louis decided to drink to cover up the madness in his head, but this got him into trouble, so he was given a chance to start over on a vacation in Florida.  It was there that he met his future wife, and he felt like his life was finally in a good spot.  They married soon after, but the war did not cease in Louis’ mind as it continued to rage and push his marriage to the brink.  There was only one way to end the war–only if Louis was willing to surrender.

Production Quality (3 points)

Harold Cronk has had decent productions in the past, but he and his team really went all out for this one.  They obviously put a lot of time and effort into crafting extremely authentic and historically accurate sets, locations, and props.  This is not just another cheesy PureFlix ripoff because time and money were spent on attention to detail and one making it look real.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are also extremely professional, but these should be a given in higher budget films like this one.  Further, the soundtrack of Unbroken: Path to Redemption is very impactful as Cronk made a wise decision to depart from the typical Will Musser soundtrack PureFlix films usually have.  Finally, the editing in this film is very good as it handles a large amount of content very well.  In summary, this is a rare find as a perfect PureFlix production, and it is definitely a breakout film for Cronk and his team.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Despite what some critics may say, it was an excellent idea for this film to pick up where the Hollywood version left off because this second half of the story is much better than the first.  Hopefully, this film launches Christian entertainment into a new era of effectively using source material to produce great films.  The time jumps in Unbroken: Path to Redemption are handled very well without narration, and the dialogue is very well-crafted and well-constructed in order to build the characters into real, accessible people.  It goes without saying that the psychological elements in this film are exquisite and are perhaps the best in Christian film to date.  The use of flashbacks is wonderful, and the portrayal of PTSD is very accurate and on point.  Further, the plot progression is handled well, and the messaging is effective without being too over the top.  The only issues to raise with this plot relate to some slightly wasted time at the beginning of the film that is felt later when the ending comes off as a bit rushed, but this is really nitpicking because the story is presented very well and is definitely a breath of fresh air to Christian entertainment.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

It was absolute genius to cast Will Graham as Billy Graham in this film, and this is the sort of expertise we need to see more of in Christian films as we hopefully progress to a new era of Christian entertainment.  Elsewhere in this film, the acting is slightly awkward in the first few scenes, as if they were test scenes, but the acting quickly and dramatically improves as time goes on.  Samuel Hunt has a surprise breakout role as Zamperini, and he does a great job playing multiple different roles as the same character.  Conversely, Merritt Patterson cements a great role as the lead actress in this film.  Overall, each cast member owns his or her respective role very well and seems very comfortable in it.  This rounds out an excellent movie that is definitely worth your time.

Conclusion

Unbroken: Path to Redemption earns an x-factor point for portraying psychological elements very well and for having re-watchability qualities.  Much like Jon Gunn did in The Case for Christ, Harold Cronk and his team have found a new voice by effectively adapting source material into Christian film.  This is exactly what we need to be seeing more of by letting someone else take the screenwriting duties.  Building an authentic production and casting great actors and actresses is also key to success.  Unbroken: Path to Redemption will have far-reaching effects and is definitely worth your time to go see.

Final Rating: 9 out of 10 points