George C. Wolfe’s biographical drama film, Rustin, shines a compelling spotlight on the often-overlooked life of civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. Rustin is set against the turbulent backdrop of the 1960s civil rights movement. Rusin tells the story of this man’s crucial role in organizing the historic 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. Produced by Higher Ground, the production company founded by Barack and Michelle Obama, Rustin boasts a stellar cast, with Colman Domingo delivering a remarkable performance in the titular role, supported by Chris Rock, Jeffrey Wright, Audra McDonald, Glynn Turman, Aml Ameen, and CCH Pounder. Rustin is written by Julian Breece and Dustin Lance Black, with a gripping narrative crafted by Breece.
One of the film’s standout features is its impeccable casting. Colman Domingo as Bayard Rustin captures the essence of the civil rights leader portraying his determination, intelligence, and unwavering commitment to the cause. Domingo’s performance is a tour de force, making Rustin’s struggles and triumphs intense. The supporting cast members, especially Chris Rock as Roy Wilkins, Glynn Turman as A. Philip Randolph, and Aml Ameen as Martin Luther King Jr., deliver solid performances. These performances add layers to the narrative and enrich the overall experience.
The film’s production values are commendable. I notice meticulous attention to period details, costumes, and set designs that transport the audience back to the 1960s. The cinematography captures the intensity and fervor of the civil rights movement. The visuals effectively juxtapose the peaceful protests with the harsh realities of racial discrimination and violence. The film’s visual aesthetics immerse viewers in the struggles faced by Rustin and his fellow activists adding to the emotional impact,
Rustin also digs into the complexities of Rustin’s personal life. The movie explores his identity as a gay man at a time when homosexuality was deeply stigmatized. The film handles this aspect of Rustin’s story with sensitivity and nuance and sheds light on the challenges he faced within both the civil rights movement and the LGBTQ+ community. This portrayal adds depth to Rustin’s character, emphasizing his resilience and courage in the face of adversity.
The screenplay by Breece and Black skillfully navigates Rustin’s journey. The writing does a good job of balancing the historical context with intimate moments that reveal Rustin’s vulnerabilities. The dialogue is sharp and poignant. The movie captures the eloquence of the era’s influential figures while also conveying the raw emotions of the protagonists. The film also successfully humanizes Rustin. He’s portrayed not just as a symbol of the civil rights movement but as a multifaceted individual with dreams, fears, and aspirations.
However, despite its many strengths, Rustin is not without its flaws. One notable issue is the film’s pacing, which occasionally feels uneven. Certain scenes linger for too long, disrupting the overall flow of the narrative and causing moments of stagnation. Additionally, the film’s runtime, at times, feels excessive, leading to moments of viewer fatigue. Tighter editing could have enhanced the film’s impact by maintaining a more consistent rhythm.
Furthermore, while the film sheds light on Rustin’s contributions to the civil rights movement, it occasionally sidelines other important figures. An example is A. Philip Randolph and Anna Arnold Hedgeman, played by Glynn Turman and CCH Pounder, respectively. These characters, although well-acted, are not given enough screen time to fully explore their roles in the movement. A more balanced focus on the supporting characters could have provided a more comprehensive view of the historical events depicted in the film.
Rustin stands as a powerful tribute to Bayard Rustin’s legacy as a civil rights activist and a testament to his unwavering commitment to justice and equality. The film’s exceptional performances, attention to historical detail, and nuanced exploration of Rustin’s personal and political struggles make it a compelling watch. Despite its pacing issues and occasional lack of focus on supporting characters, Rustin succeeds in illuminating an important chapter in American history, reminding audiences of the courage and conviction of those who fought tirelessly for a more just society.
- Acting - 8/108/10
- Cinematography/Visual Effects - 7.5/107.5/10
- Plot/Screenplay - 7/107/10
- Setting/Theme - 7/107/10
- Watchability - 7/107/10
- Rewatchability - 6/106/10