Film Review – Emancipation (2022)

Title – Emancipation (2022) 

Director – Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) 

Cast – Will Smith, Ben Foster, Charmaine Bingwa

Plot – Based on the true story of Louisiana slave Peter (Smith) and his epic journey of escape through the unforgiving swamp lands where he is pursued by notorious tracker/slave master Jim Fassel (Foster). 

“I have to get to my family”

Review by Eddie on 13/02/2023

For once beloved and seemingly squeaky clean actor/megastar Will Smith, there will always be a before and after the Slappening when it comes to how people view his works and the man himself.

Taking some time away from the spotlight after both his greatest night winning an Oscar and his lowest moment where he publicly assaulted comedian Chris Rock, Smith returns to the screen in the form of Apple TV original’s big-budgeted and highly touted Emancipation, an epic partnership with director Antoine Fuqua that is nothing more than a dead on arrival piece of Oscar bait that fails in almost all areas you’d expect it to succeed in.

Spending over $100 million dollars to bring the true story of Louisiana slave Peter to life, it’s hard to actually understand where all of Apple’s significant investment has gone too other than Smith’s undoubtedly large salary, as Fuqua’s oddly monochrome film (almost as if all the life and colour has been sucked out of it by celluloid vampires) fails to get out of first gear, in what amounts to a dull chase movie set in uninspired swampland’s, that just so happens to feature characters we know little about and grow to care little for also.

Anchored with a strange Haitian like accent that can only exist because you know, accents win you awards, Smith is at his most irksome and devoid of life as the determined Peter, who will stop at nothing to escape his slave masters and return home to his family but the problem is we never get to truly know Peter and who he is/was despite Fuqua spending much of his films two hour plus running time placing Peter front and centre throughout, with it likely to be the only thing you remember about Peter’s tale being the moment he goes all Lara Croft on us and battles a swamp gator with nothing more than a small knife.

It’s hard to imagine that this wannabe weighty and emotionally hefty drama is directed by the same man that was once responsible for the energetic and powerful Training Day with Emancipation another sad and sorry addition to Fuqua’s increasingly poor C.V, one that once promised bright futures only to deliver efforts such as this, King Arthur, The Guilty, Infinite, The Equalizer 2 and Olympus Has Fallen, all films with potential and financial means to make it happen but end products that ranged from boring to downright bad, with Emancipation nothing more than a poorly staged reiteration of much better films that you’d do well to revisit rather than partake in this new experience.

An all-round out and out misfire, when it comes to 2022 films that failed to hit the mark in a big way, Emancipation is right up there with the best (worst) of them with Will Smith needing to do a lot more than he does here to win back the public adoration he once cradled in the palm of his hand.

Final Say –

There’s no doubt Oscars were on the mind of all involved here but Apple TV’s big investment in Emancipation as one of their prestige original offerings has ended up being a massive gamble that has failed to pay-off in any way, shape or form, including the hopeful bright return of its leading man.

1 canoe out of 5

5 responses to “Film Review – Emancipation (2022)

  1. I like Will Smith but, it always seems, he’s not quite on it when it comes to picking cohesive projects – which is genuinely sad!

    Sometimes I think he takes him too seriously, not disregarding the subject matters at all by the way, but he seems to happiest when in the likes of Bad Boys and (tbf) those really work!

    Or, the classic thought, he needs to do something small and indie, that feels a bit more real?

    • This is really one of those films that seemed to have been made with the wrong intent, which on face values looks like Oscars ha.

      Such a let down, in the right hands this could’ve been a really powerful and memorable experience.

  2. I’m sorry to say that whilst I would have seen anything that Smith was in, now I totally avoid him. Even seeing pictures of him fills me with disgust. I really hope film audiences feel the same. It’s a shame you have to promote this film even if it was not glowing.

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