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The Birth of a Nation

7/10
Biography . Drama . History
 

Nat Turner, a former slave in America, leads a liberation movement in 1831 to free African-Americans in Virgina that results in a violent retaliation from whites.

 
Actors: Dwight Henry , Nate Parker , Armie Hammer , Aja Naomi King , Jackie Earle Haley , Penelope Ann Miller , Gabrielle Union , Mark Boone Junior , Aunjanue Ellis , Esther Scott
Directors: Nate Parker
Country: USA
Release: 2016-10-07
More Info:
  • Kyle Smith

    Both broader and deeper than the relentless and monotonous “12 Years a Slave,” it’s one of the few important movies to hit cinemas this year.

    New York Post Full Review
  • Brian Truitt

    Parker creates a fascinating portrait of Nat Turner as neither hero nor villain. In the end, he’s portrayed as a man faced with tough decisions.

    USA Today Full Review
  • Steve Persall

    Parker makes an assured feature filmmaking debut, with poetic imagery and powerful narrative.

    Tampa Bay Times Full Review
  • Drew McWeeny

    This film puts Nat Turner and his moral journey dead center, and it asks you to take an unflinching look at how an inhuman system broke the human beings trapped in it.

    Hitfix Full Review
  • Justin Gerber

    The Birth of a Nation is one of the most confident writing and directorial debuts in recent memory.

    Consequence of Sound Full Review
  • Bilge Ebiri

    It's a beautiful, reflective film even as it is also a brutal, visceral one.

    New York Magazine (Vulture) Full Review
  • Tirdad Derakhshani

    A startling, powerful biopic.

    Philadelphia Inquirer Full Review
  • James Berardinelli

    When I say that Parker is a master manipulator, that’s meant as a compliment of the highest order. He gets us into this story and puts us unequivocally behind Nat.

    ReelViews Full Review
  • Peter Travers

    A movie of potent provocation and surging humanity that ranks with the year's best.

    Rolling Stone Full Review
  • Leah Greenblatt

    A big, unabashedly ambitious picture, heavy with the weight of history. But its best moments turn out to be the smaller human ones.

    Entertainment Weekly Full Review
  • Russ Fischer

    In script and performance, the film is an articulate howl of anguish and rage given depth by a discerning comprehension of the ways various communities can rely on faith for very different means.

    The Playlist Full Review
  • Stephen Whitty

    There is nothing safe about The Birth of a Nation.

    New York Daily News Full Review
  • Justin Chang

    A biographical drama steeped equally in grace and horror, it builds to a brutal finale that will stir deep emotion and inevitable unease. But the film is perhaps even more accomplished as a theological provocation, one that grapples fearlessly with the intense spiritual convictions that drove Turner to do what he had previously considered unthinkable.

    Variety Full Review
  • Marjorie Baumgarten

    The Birth of a Nation most definitely has its finger on the pulse of our times.

    Austin Chronicle Full Review
  • Moira Macdonald

    It’s part of the strength of Parker’s film that the current controversy doesn’t entirely overshadow its impact — and that Birth of a Nation immediately becomes part of another crucial conversation, about race.

    The Seattle Times Full Review
  • Mick LaSalle

    As a film, The Birth of a Nation is raw and ungainly, but it’s definitely alive.

    San Francisco Chronicle Full Review
  • A.A. Dowd

    Nate Parker’s film on Nat Turner, imperfect though it is, deserves to be seen.

    The A.V. Club Full Review
  • Rex Reed

    So it’s less bloody and gruesome than "12 Years a Slave." But make no mistake about it; the legion of protestors with no plans to see The Birth of a Nation is growing.

    New York Observer Full Review
  • Richard Roeper

    Parker reaches with both hands for greatness and falls short — but this is nevertheless a solid and strong and valuable piece of work.

    Chicago Sun-Times Full Review
  • Eric Kohn

    As cinema, it's alternately engaging and overly blunt. But there's no denying its efficacy as a major celebratory gesture.

    Indiewire Full Review
  • Jordan Raup

    What’s lacking in aesthetic cohesion, pacing, and subtlety is made up for in a powerful lead performance and an essential story with compelling religious undercurrents.

    The Film Stage Full Review
  • A.O. Scott

    The movie, uneven as it is, has terrific momentum and passages of concentrated visual beauty. The acting is strong even when the script wanders into thickets of rhetoric and mystification. And despite its efforts to simplify and italicize the story, it’s admirably difficult, raising thorny questions about ends and means, justice and mercy, and the legacy of racism that lies at the root of our national identity.

    The New York Times Full Review
  • Bill Goodykoontz

    It’s a complicated movie about a complex man that courts controversy, both intentional and not. If that doesn’t make it a great movie, it makes it a necessary one, now more than ever.

    Arizona Republic Full Review
  • Tim Grierson

    This may not be the most nuanced of films, but its blunt-force impact leaves one shaken.

    Screen International Full Review
  • Todd McCarthy

    The film offers up more than enough in terms of intelligence, insight, historical research and religious nuance as to not at all be considered a missed opportunity.

    The Hollywood Reporter Full Review
  • Tasha Robinson

    Birth Of A Nation is powerful and effective, but it's spectacle that can't humanize or define its subject.

    The Verge Full Review
  • Robert Abele

    The filmmaking has a certain paint-by-numbers frankness that works in some ways, not in others.

    TheWrap Full Review
  • Katie Walsh

    Placed under the microscope, The Birth of a Nation lacks some originality of thought, but it nonetheless offers the opportunity for necessary discussion as we continue to wrestle with the racist history of this nation and its continuing effects.

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch Full Review
  • Ann Hornaday

    The Birth of a Nation is a flawed but fairly compelling chapter of the American story that powerfully resonates with how that story is playing out today.

    Washington Post Full Review
  • Ty Burr

    Produced, co-written, and directed by its star, The Birth of a Nation is very much a first film, its hesitancies disguised as bluntness, and the best things about it are Parker’s acting and his ambitions.

    Boston Globe Full Review
  • Michael Phillips

    Parts of The Birth of a Nation are bluntly effective and beautifully acted, though one of the drawbacks, ironically, is Parker's own performance. Even the rape victims of the screenplay have a hard time getting their fair share of the screen time; everything in the story, by design, keeps the focus and the anguished close-ups strictly on Parker.

    Chicago Tribune Full Review
  • Lawrence Toppman

    Details matter here more than in most movies. The world needs to know this story, and nobody’s going to tell it again for a long while. Parker put his heart and soul into it, but sometimes the road paved with good intentions doesn’t lead to Hell: It stops at mediocrity.

    Charlotte Observer Full Review
  • Roger Moore

    It’s not bad, a solid “Hollywood” history of the 1830s Nat Turner slave revolt in Virginia with a love story, religion, injustices, torture and murder, a movie with middling, un-affecting acting but high artistic pretensions.

    Movie Nation Full Review
  • John Anderson

    What Mr. Parker has committed to the screen is a righteously indignant, kinetic and well-acted film — Mr. Parker, as Turner, delivers a fierce, complex performance. At the same time, his film is remarkably conventional. The framing and the camera movements are all very routine, even dated; one would have said it looks like television, before television gained its current lustre.

    Wall Street Journal Full Review
  • Mike Scott

    The Birth of a Nation is ultimately involving as a cinematic history lesson. It is its flashes of modern relevance, however, in which it scores most effectively.

    New Orleans Times-Picayune Full Review
  • Stephanie Zacharek

    The Birth of a Nation isn’t a great movie – it’s hardly even a good one. But it’s bluntly effective, less a monumental piece of filmmaking than an open door. Parker stars as Turner, and his performance is grounded and thoughtful – he may be a better actor than he is a director.

    Time Full Review
  • Alan Scherstuhl

    The Birth of a Nation offers a troubling tangle of the personal and historical. But above all else it's commercial, an entertainment of purpose and some power. Parker knows how to juice a crowd.

    Village Voice Full Review
  • Kenneth Turan

    The Birth of a Nation certainly has the power of conviction, but the grace of art escapes it.

    Los Angeles Times Full Review
  • Joshua Rothkopf

    What you will find is a film that toggles between impressive fury and a kind of made-for-TV blandness that does Nat Turner’s 1831 uprising — still controversial — no favors.

    Time Out New York Full Review
  • Matt Singer

    A famous (though almost certainly false) quote attributed to President Woodrow Wilson compared Griffith’s work to “writing history with lightning” and the best sections in Parker’s Birth of a Nation are charged with a similar kind of cinematic electricity. Many of his directing choices are obvious but bluntly effective.

    ScreenCrush Full Review
  • Lanre Bakare

    Mostly, the film is heavy-handed, with subtlety nowhere to be found.

    The Guardian Full Review
  • Peter Rainer

    An actor making his directorial debut, Parker, who plays Turner and also co-wrote the script with Jean McGianni Celestin, has taken hold of an incendiary subject and coarsened its complexities into agitprop.

    Christian Science Monitor Full Review
  • Matt Zoller Seitz

    Like many Mel Gibson films, as well as such revenge-driven revisionist Westerns as "Posse" and "Django Unchained," The Birth of a Nation is an intriguing object, passionate and furious and shameless and slick, distorting history in both defensible and problematic ways.

    RogerEbert.com Full Review
  • Matt Donato

    The Birth Of A Nation is not without inherent power, but Parker struggles to evoke anything besides surface tellings of textbook atrocities.

    We Got This Covered Full Review
  • Matt Brennan

    Nate Parker strains to control the strange and stirring complications of his subject's visionary apocalypticism.

    Slant Magazine Full Review
  • Amy Nicholson

    The direction is so heavy-handed that it feels like Parker is afraid audiences don’t know slavery is wrong. Or maybe that truth is all he’s comfortable using Nat Turner to say.

    MTV News Full Review
  • Barry Hertz

    The director’s pedestrian tactics are most evident in his command, or lack thereof, over his cast. While Parker knows how to expertly play to the camera – he all but winks at the audience, so confident is he in his admittedly captivating lead performance – he abandons his fellow actors, allowing them to exploit their worst instincts: hammy accents, wild gesticulating, uneasy line readings.

    The Globe and Mail (Toronto) Full Review
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