Rated 4.0

There is such a powerful convergence of hot-button topics in Ava DuVernay's Selma, from civil rights to voting laws to police brutality to street protests to government surveillance, that even some of the film's strongest proponents are positioning the film as a good-for-you, syllabus-ready obligation. That's an affront to the intelligence, cinematic flexibility and emotional satisfaction of this rousing film, which tracks the involvement of Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) in the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Oyelowo is fantastic as MLK, a perfect mix of humanity and moral authority, and Carmen Ejogo is fine in the underdeveloped role of Coretta Scott King. Enough famous faces ham it up in bit parts that the film threatens to turn into Ava DuVernay's Lee Daniels' The Butler (a snarling Tim Roth as George Wallace is particularly distracting), but Oyelowo keeps it grounded and DuVernay keeps it moving.