The compelling actual tale behind an 1863 image of the slave whose escape the movie is based on served as the inspiration for Emancipation. He was referred to as “Whipped Peter” because of the horrific collection of scars on his back. The story revolves around Peter (Will Smith), a slave who is abducted from a Louisiana plantation to build railroad tracks for the Confederacy. The movie follows Peter’s treacherous adventure as he puts his life in danger to flee and find his family. After Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, hundreds of thousands of Black people were forced to wait for the North to free them or seize their freedom. Jim Fassel, a nasty “manhunter,” is pursuing Peter while he and a few others plan an escape via the marshes in the movie (Ben Foster). Peter encounters leeches and an alligator while trying to flee, as well as other wild animals. Additionally, Peter runs across Andrew Cailloux (Mustafa Shakir) and joins his all-Black regiment of Union troops.
Following the Oscars issue that erupted earlier this year, Emancipation has been mentioned as Will Smith’s “comeback” movie. Will Smith, who won the Best Actor Oscar for King Richard, returned with another stirring tale, albeit it didn’t exactly have the same impact as one would have hoped for after slapping Chris Rock on stage during the Academy Awards ceremony. Antoine Fuqua’s decision to blend a survival thriller and a civil war drama into this movie is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why the movie, despite its moving tale, doesn’t live up to its full potential. This movie tends to be a confusing journey in terms of genre because of the tonal variations it takes.
Emancipation does succeed in creating a few painful situations that are disturbing. This movie is not particularly enjoyable to watch because of the sounds of whips and screaming. While the use of slo-mo and tracking shots as we follow Peter (Smith) on his escape through the marshes occasionally transforms the movie into an odd survival action zone, monochromatic photography adds a unique vibe to the entire plot.
Another significant flaw in the movie’s narrative is that it continues to place far more emphasis on Peter’s actions than on his thoughts. Apart from the fact that he is motivated by the desire to see his family once again, we learn little to nothing about him. But when it comes to putting his full personality together, certain elements seem to be missing. Will Smith gives his all during the performance to provide a sincere performance that transcends the flaws in the storyline.
Will Smith and Antoine Fuqua’s film Emancipation doesn’t end up being their greatest effort. A terrific performance by Smith, who strives to carry the movie through even its worst moments, is where the movie instead finds itself in the middle.