Film shines when sticks to facts, falls short when adding embellishments
“Harriet” is a movie following the story of the historical figure and American hero, Harriet Tubman (Cynthia Erivo). While this movie has a lot of strong and inspirational moments, this historical fiction movie is brought down by its fiction.
When this movie stays historically accurate, it is gold. Harriet Tubman is such a strong and inspirational figure in American history, that it is surprising it took so long for her to get her own movie. However, maybe it should have stayed that way.
As I said, when this movie is sticking to Tubman’s true story and not adding any Hollywood fluff, it is an absolutely amazing watch. To be able to get a better look at the struggles and challenges she endured, as well as the amazing complexity and bravery of the underground railroad is baffling. The movie really puts into perspective what she did for this nation.
However, whenever this movie strayed from its source material, it was easy to tell. I understand it is a movie and all, and almost every real-life figure gets some “movie magic” touch-ups. I just think her true story is so good on its own that it doesn’t need anything added to it.
This movie is at is best when it tells the real-life story of Harriet Tubman, and there’s not much more to say than that.
Overall, I give this movie a 6/10.
The plot summary (NO spoilers)
For those who do not know the story of Harriet Tubman, here is a brief over of who she was. Tubman was a slave in Maryland before she escaped to Pennsylvania and became a free woman. From there she decided to risk everything to go back and save more people from slavery.
Over the course of several challenging years, she saved 70 people in this way and became an important figure in the movement to end slavery in America. She eventually went on to lead an all-black group of soldiers in the Civil War, as well as help freed slaves to adjust to life post–freedom until the end of her life in 1913.
The movie primarily focuses on her time escaping herself, as well as the 70 people she helped afterward. It goes into exploring how she herself learned about and became an integral part of, the underground railroad.
“Minty,” as she is referred to before she becomes free, is determined to escape her master, Gideon Brodess (Joe Alwyn). One night she takes off alone at which point she is caught on a bridge between her pursuers. She jumps off to luckily survive and make it up to Philadelphia.
In Philadelphia, she meets William Still (Leslie Odom Jr.), a leader of an anti-slavery group and the underground railroad and Marie Buchanon (Janelle Monae), a lodging house owner. With there help she begins her task of going back for her husband.
After finding he has taken on another wife (because he thought Harriet was dead), she brings back much of her family instead. Gideon is furious at this point and devotes himself to hunting Harriet down.