To describe Harriet as anything less than intense would be a disservice. Likewise, determined is an understatement. Raised as a slave, repeatedly beaten, severely injured which caused “visions from God,” and escaped rather than be sold, what else would one expect? Yet, it is her ingenuity that stands out most of all, especially given her lack of education. One doesn’t survive 13 rescue missions into slave-holding territory without brains. Partial to historical biopics, I am pleased to report that History vs Hollywood finds this mostly accurate, except, alas, for her nemesis and a key early friend. I give the movie 3.5 Gavels and it has a 72% Rotten Tomatoes rating with a 97% Audience score.
Determined to live free or die, Harriet Tubman flees one hundred miles from Maryland to Pennsylvania. Unable to stay free while her relatives are still enslaved, she makes repeated trips using the Underground Railroad. Known as “Moses,” a price is put on her head by slave owners. Her former owner has not forgotten her, and seeks revenge.
Cynthia Erivo plays Harriet Tubman in a compelling performance. Fiery is another adjective that comes to mind. Joe Alwyn is Gideon Brodess, her former owner. Given her strength, he comes off as almost bland, unlikely for someone who is losing thousands of dollars. Leslie Odom, Jr. is William Still, a supporter and her connection to the Underground Railroad.
While Terminator: Dark Fate was underperforming this weekend, Harriet was just the opposite. Made on a modest $17 million budget, this movie made $12 million, one-third more than expected. More than just informative about a character that may appear on our $20 bill, the cinematography is lush. Maryland/Pennsylvania never looked better. It is a shame that the movie ignores Tubman’s connection to John Brown and the Harper’s Ferry raid. Instead, it chooses to let us know that Harriet was the first female to lead an army expedition in the Civil War. Once again, we have a fascinating subject with a film that just doesn’t quite measure up.