Emancipation review: Not as inspiring as it should be

Emancipation follows Peter, an African-American slave, as he tries to break free from slavery upon learning that the President has liberated them. The movie is now streaming on Apple TV+.

Plot summary

Peter, a slave working for Captain John Lyons, is forced to bid his family goodbye as the army takes him to work at Clinton on a railroad.

Peter witnesses the way slaves are treated at this camp, especially by Jim Fassel, who compares his slaves to his dogs and treats them ruthlessly.

News flies through the camp that President Abraham Lincoln has freed the slaves. Peter overhears the talk that all the slaves are now heading toward Baton Rouge, where Lincoln’s army is.

Peter and his three friends escape the camp in broad daylight. He hopes to find his way to Lincoln’s army by traveling through the swamps in order to avoid Fassel, who is now hunting him down.


Overall, Emancipation is a Will Smith show. Smith brilliantly depicts the angst and the hope that is inside Peter, who wishes to break free from slavery.

The only problem here is that Smith has played savior characters like Peter over the years. The writers should’ve focused more on Peter’s suffering; this way, Will Smith would’ve gotten a chance to portray a more vulnerable side of Peter.

For the most part of the film, Peter comes out as a hero, and Will Smith does a decent job of playing that part.

The first time the viewers see Ben Foster as Jim Fassel, he looks intriguing and has a decent backstory. At the end of the day, as usual, Foster fails to bring anything new to this white man who wants to hunt down Peter to satisfy his own ego.


The film captures how systematic racism affects the mind of a human being from the very beginning. Let it be through Jim Fassel’s back story or through the girl that saw Peter running away from Fassel.

In both cases, these two characters were once naive and innocent until racist thoughts infiltrated their minds and changed them.

For a drama that tries to be artistic, the film is paced carefully to engross mainstream audiences as well.

Apart from Will Smith’s strong performance, the only scene that will stay with audiences is the one where Peter removes his shirt to reveal the scars he has received over the years.


The film, at times, tries to bring a number of different genres to life.

The first half of the film establishes everything a movie based on slavery does. The second half sees the film turn itself into a cat-and-mouse game. The final half is comprised of a battle.

The message the film wants to portray is lost amidst all of this. The creators tend to forget that the movie should impact the audience to a certain degree.

It’s supposed to be an inspiring story, but ‘Emancipation’ over here is filled with Peter’s thrilling adventures. His emotions are not put forth properly, even once.


‘Emancipation’ is basically Will Smith doing what he does best in a drama that fails to evoke the emotions it should. The star power of Will Smith will probably attract the audience a bit, but the viewers will forget the movie somewhere down the road.

Emancipation review: Not as inspiring as it should be 1

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Date Created: 2022-12-09 00:00

Editor's Rating:

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