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Coming on the heels of a glut of Civil Rights movies in the past decade Rustin doesn’t tell a tale you don’t already know, nor does it do justice to the sacrifices of the film’s eponymous hero.

I had never heard of Bayard Rustin or his pivotal role in organizing the 1963 March on Washington, so in that regard Rustin serves its purpose. The question is whether the film does a better job than your average history book would do. I'd argue it doesn't.

Not only does the movie continually hit you over the head with its own significance, director George C. Wolfe stages all the important scenes as though he's on a theater stage instead of behind a film camera, as the visual blandness and the narrative familiarity comebine for an unengaging viewing experience.

This is mostly felt in Rustin's final act, where not even the historic sight of 260,000 black Americans marching on the National Mall evokes heartfelt emotions, but most of the scenes preceding that moment don't pop with intrigue, suspense or excitement either.

The film should be commended for finally giving reliable supporting player Colman Domingo his first proper high-profile leading role, but the actor seems more interested in delivering big, loud potenial Oscar clips than in carving out a character you can invest in, as does the movie as a whole.

Rustin generally errs even more on the preachy side than similar movies like Selma or One Night in Miami did and thus ends up a film that informs but doesn't enlight, entertain or stir.

release: 2023

director: George C. Wolfe

starring: Colman Domingo, Chris Rock, Aml Ameen, Jeffrey Wright


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