Review: The Great Debaters


A simple but compelling story based off true events about overcoming racial prejudices in the 1930s with an intellectual perspective.

How intellectual? Well, maybe not quite as rigorous or risky as it could have been with the ideas involved.

Directed by and starring Denzel Washington as a college professor in Texas leading four children in a national debate team, going on to challenge Harvard University’s own team. However his own intense political views and determination could threaten the lives of his students.

I cannot say I was greatly surprised by any of the turns of events in the film, and while a great cast do provide the perfect emotional performances, I wasn’t as moved here as I have been in other films of this genre.
The film gathers its emotional strength by having younger, more vulnerable actors involved, and this is very effective (especially alongside Washington’s crusader) to a point. Forest Whitaker also turns in a good performance as well as his son, who plays the youngest debater on the team, but unfortunately, his role was the most transparent. While the other three took the debate spotlight through the entire film, his character was relegated to the sidelines, even deemed unfit to debate before an audience. Hm, I cannot think what the climax of this story will be. Nope, no idea.

It does its best to be a moving, provocative story, and it does have great tension in particularly dark scenes, but if you let it sink in it feels a little too… deliberate; an intellectual properly made palpable for mass consumption. Was it bad? No. It is a good movie, and I suggest you watch it if you like these sorts of dramas (or are a fan of Washington) it just doesn’t feel as challenging or intense as it could have been.

Additional Marshmallows: Wait… Oprah Winfrey was the Producer? What?

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