February 20, 2024

HARRIET (4K): Superficial But Exciting

2019 / 125 min
Available at www.MovieZyng.com
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😺

With only a rudimentary knowledge of Harriet Tubman’s life and accomplishments, I can’t attest to this movie’s historical accuracy. Nor do I actually care. If the law required films based on true stories to be accurate, how many of them would end up being all that entertaining?

What’s important is that Harriet is very entertaining, even though it doesn’t offer much in the way of depth. It’s more of a chronology of Tubman’s (Cynthia Erivo) rise from lowly, abused slave to the legendary abolitionist we read about in school. But to her credit, director/co-writer Kasi Lemmons keeps her filmmaker hat on and leaves the educating to others. Her skills elevate the movie from one we feel obligated to see to one we actually want to see.

The worst place to lose a contact lens.
Harriet is surprisingly action oriented, with many sequences focused on Tubman’s daring - and dangerous - efforts to not-only escape north to freedom, but repeatedly risk her own life by returning south to free others (including most of her own family). The uncomplicated narrative presents its characters as clear-cut heroes and villains. The latter, Tubman’s vindictive former owner, Gideon (Joe Alwyn), is evil personified. 

As “Minty”, Cynthia Erivo rises above the proficient-but-unremarkable script with an excellent performance (which earned her an Oscar nod that year), providing a majority of the movie’s emotional heft. A chief reason the escape sequences and conflicts are effective (and suspenseful) is because Erivo’s earnestness has us invested in the character from the get-go. 

Is this the definitive Harriet Tubman story? Probably not. It’s more of a checklist of events that never dives too deeply into its subject, the divisive political turmoil of the time or atrocities committed against slaves. And aside from Tubman herself, none of the other characters resonate much. Still, Harriet is exciting, well directed and fast-paced. Boasting impressive cinematography, authentic production design and an affecting music score, the film looks and sounds great with this 4K UHD transfer, which is an improvement over the 2020 Blu-ray disc (though it looks good, too). Both formats are included here, along with a smattering of perfunctory bonus features.



FEATURETTES - Her Story; Becoming Harriet.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director/co-writer Kasi Lemmons.


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