User Reviews (17)

Add a Review

  • In the thirty-three years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death, his life has taken on an almost mythical status. The result is that people often forget that he was a real living and breathing man. He was a person who loved (and made love to) his wife. Dr. King was an intelligent man with the gift of oratory, but otherwise ordinary, who suddenly found himself thrust into an extraordinary situation. Commend HBO, director Clark Johnson, the screenwriters and the incredible cast for breathing life into the often told story of Dr. King and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Previous films on Dr. King, paint him as an almost superhuman figure -- a saint even. With Boycott, the filmmakers have wisely brought him "down to earth' and reveal Dr. King as a noble, but clearly human being who has feelings and weaknesses. Remember Dr. King was only 26 years old with a young wife and child, when the Montgomery Bus Boycott began. Also significant is that the film explores Dr. King's relationship with his father at the time. All of these elements help to give the film a special power that will resonate with viewers. Jeffrey Wright gives a powerful performance in the lead role than rivals if not surpasses Denzel Washington's performance as Malcolm X. Wright is so riveting, that you actually forget that you are watching a performance. The film's documentary-style approach also gives the film an almost eerie sense of realism. There's also some more subtle touches that help to place the viewer into the period. Some of the most striking were the scenes showing how black passengers were required to pay their bus fare and how they were treated once they got on the bus. Boycott is not a mere "history lesson," but a moving portrait of a time and the role that a people played in improving their quality of life.
  • This film does an excellent job of bringing an important event in American/African-American history to life. When Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat on 1 December 1955, she set in motion a whole movement of people working to insure civil rights for all citizens.

    The cast underplays the events, allowing the viewer to realize the importance of what is happening. The actor playing Dr. King gives a moving performance and is powerful in his recreation of King's gift for rhetoric, expressing the desire of people to be free.
  • This film, following other classics of histo-drama such as Malcolm X or Cry Freedom, is not a biography of Martin Luther King. Instead, it shows in detail the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the beginnings of Dr. King's philosophy and motivation.

    It is somewhat dis-orienting at first, as it is shot both in a documentary style, with references to the camera and a raw, un-cut feel, and in a more traditional style. However, as the movie progresses, you find both styles equally powerful in their methods.'

    I found this film particularly moving because I was not alive during the events depicted, and the personification or the real-ization of the characters, people I grew up near worshiping, brought home just how different today's world is from 1950's Alabama.
  • HBO has always had a knack for supporting and greenlighting independent dramas that other cable networks and The Big Four wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole, usually garnering multiple awards in the process and gaining the ire and envy of the other companies.

    Well, be prepared for a lot more teeth-gnashing from the other side. In the tradition of such outstanding productions as MISS EVERS' BOYS, IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK, THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN, WITNESS PROTECTION and INTRODUCING DOROTHY DANDRIDGE, comes BOYCOTT (a.k.a. DAYBREAK OF FREEDOM.)

    Clark Johnson, best known for his role as Det. Meldrick Lewis on the long-running NBC series HOMICIDE, directs a remarkably fresh and urgent vision of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott of the late 1950's, as led by a young pastor, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Using hand-held cameras and verite techniques, the whole event takes on an in-your-face, "You-Are-There" feel as we become privy to the back story, the major players in the drama, both black and white, and the volatile emotions that were always roiling just below the surface, ready to explode without warning.

    With docudramas such as this, there is always the danger of transforming such larger-than-life characters into cardboard-cutout saints; perfect characterizations that capture the public images of people we are all too familiar with, revealing none of the frailties, failings and fears that made them human.

    Director Johnson has managed to avoid that problem by gathering a cast of up-and-comers and acting vets, who ensure that the portrayals will be top-notch, if not remarkable beyond belief or reproach.

    Jeffrey Wright, who has shown so much range between his work in BASQUIAT and the SHAFT remake, brings a multi-layered performance to bear in the role of Dr. King. A decent, religious young man just finding his roots as the newest member of the Montgomery community, he is also every bit the family man, deeply in love with his wife and dedicated to her and his newborn daughter. But Wright never lets us forget he is a man, who becomes bewildered by the role in the boycott that destiny has chosen him to play, and even within the depths of fear, anger and despair, finds reserves of strength and courage within that surprise him more than anyone else involved in the struggle. The fact that he is able to inspire everyone around him to call on those same qualities within themselves at the worst time, is what made him the leader he was, and thanks to this Emmy-caliber portrayal, we see that.

    Carmen Ejogo is not provided with as much material to work with as Wright, unfortunately, because she brings an impossible beauty, as well as an incredible combination of strength and vulnerability to her role as Coretta. One can only speculate that because time was limited, there was only so much we could learn about her, and it is to her credit that with the little screen time she has, she makes us want to know more.

    The same can be said, happily, for the rest of BOYCOTT'S jaw-droppingly talented cast. The leads of a film can only be as good as the supporting players around them, and we have some true heavyweights here, whom a lot of people may not have heard of before. That should change after this.

    CCH Pounder, who can take five minutes of screen time and give you an hour's worth of character, is just as stunning here as a local educator who throws herself wholeheartedly into the cause. Terrence Howard leavens seriousness with hearty humor as Dr. King's biggest supporter and best friend, Reverend Ralph David Abernathy. Two standouts must be given their due: Reg E. Cathey, who has shown an incredible amount of range and versatility this year, between his roles as an aging, streetwise heroin addict in Charles S. Dutton's HBO smash THE CORNER, and as a corrupt warden on the critically-acclaimed OZ, balances rage and resolve as E.D. Nixon, a longtime local community leader who at first resents, then respects the young Dr. King and how he helps the movement gather momentum.

    Erik Dellums is equally remarkable as black journalist Bayard Rustin, whose former radical leanings and unorthodox lifestyle for that time (he was gay), do not diminish the value of his counsel to Dr. King and the members of the "Montgomery Improvement Association," though it does leave him with an incredibly hard decision to make, concerning the boycott's future.

    Some of the white characters teeter dangerously on the edge of stereotypes as Johnson uses quick crosscuts to show a few of them either giving their side of the story to the camera, or tossing off the occasional terse comment ("You got trees. You got rope.") No doubt a lot of the portrayals ring true, especially those of the Montgomery city council, but if time and budget had permitted, it would've been nice to see how deeply the boycott affected whites as well, and not just from a mostly bigoted point of view. (Of course, this has already been chronicled in such films as THE LONG WALK HOME.)

    In any case, BOYCOTT has done a wonderful job of capturing a moment in history that a new generation may be familiar with and know little about, and this ably-handled production will insure that it is not forgotten, or the contributions and achievements of those people, including and aside from Dr. and Mrs. King, Rev. Abernathy and Rosa Parks, who made it happen.
  • =G=5 March 2001
    "Boycott" tells the story of a pivotal time in the history of a young republic still bleeding from civil war. The famous mid-50's bus boycott of Montgomery which launched the modern American civil rights movement is presented with restraint and an obvious commitment to truth over drama. The film is a well crafted integration of story, real and fabricated file footage, quick vignettes of blacks and whites expressing sentiments of the time, and an interesting wandering between color and black and white all serving to keep the sense of history alive and to prevent the viewer from becoming inured to the magnitude of the issues being presented. Kudos to Wright for an excellent portrayal of a great American leader. A good, entertaining history lesson for all.
  • wayne-26 March 2001
    I am white, but Dr. Martin Luther King is near the top of my list in people I respect, and have learned from. I was eight years old when he was assasinated, and I still remember it. I have been delighted with these movies that have come along lately that explain what went on in the ten years or so before I was born, until I wass old enough to remember and respect these things first hand. "Get on the Bus", "4 Little Girls", "Miss Evers Girls" all fill in parts of the struggle for civil rights in this country. Everybody, black, white, whatever, should know what this country went through in the 50's and '60's. I am very aware that there are still 2 Americas and I'd like to see it become one in my lifetime.
  • I just saw Boycott on Kings day of celebration 2004 and it has renegized me as a filmmaker and brother. All the elements are her from Jeffery Wright's beautiful portral of a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders and the power to move forward on faith and conviction, to the supporting cast and the brilliant cinematography telling the story in both a narritive and documentary style. Much love to Clark Johnson for his direction in a film that offered us more of king then we ever knew and handling the material with the respect it is due. Let's not forget david Hennings who I hope to hire someday and Stewart Burns for such poignant writing. My favorite part is when every one gets on the now desegregated bus but king and you see it pull away with king in the back window. He is ordinary yet extraordinary and has more battles yet to come. The ending is inspiring and makes this a new classic in the history of king's legacy. Props to HBO and all involved.
  • This film is astonishingly good. I admit I am a Black film student but lovers of great cinema everywhere will exhilarated by "Boycott".

    The story of the Montgomery bus Boycott and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. have been both reclaimed and expanded in a cinematic tour-de-force.

    You have never seen a King like Jeffrey Wright's. The first time you see him he is about to dance with his beautiful wife. From his sensuality to his preaching style, his walk to his style of dress I cannot remember a cinematic Martin Luther King that was so authentically African-American.

    The film uses different film textures like jazz musicians play their instrument. Moving from black and white documentary footage to black and white digital video, 35mm color to color super eight, each film stock has a different quality used to contextualize the films dramatic impact.

    For instance, early in the film an elderly Black man is shot waiting for the bus in glorious technicolor(common to the fifties). He directly addresses the camera discussing the fact that the boycott is on. The bus pulls up obscuring our view of him and when it pulls away it takes the color with it. The old man continues to stand at the bus stop-now in black and white.

    The film makes superb use of this technique throughout.

    It also pays attention to the oral tradition in the African-American community by depicting various preaching styles and the film is infused with great Black music utilized in ways that are as inventive as the use of film stock.

    Don't take my word for it though. I will watch almost any film for fifteen minutes. See if you can stop after watching the first fifteen minutes of "Boycott".
  • mamacornbread620 January 2008
    "Boycott" is beautifully filmed. I love the fact that it doesn't focus only on Dr. Kings' life and "I Have a Dream" speech like most films/documentaries tend to focus on. It also didn't focus on Rosa Parks either. The movie is truly about the struggle of the boycott. One can really learn a lot about the movement. I never would have guessed Jeffrey Wright could play Dr. King so well. Dr. King's speeches are delivered very well by Wright. Very convincing. And Terrence Howard...woo..he's attractive and a very good actor...and very attractive.

    Just splendid.
  • While thousands of mourners poured into the Georgia Capitol rotunda on Saturday to pay tribute to Coretta Scott King, the first woman and the first black person to lie in honor in what once was once a seat of segregation, I revisited events that occurred in the beginning of the Civil Rights movement by watching Boycott. Carmen Ejogo did an outstanding job playing Mrs. King, and Terrance Howard was equally good as the Rev. Abernathy. I hope to get a chance to see him in Hustle & Flow, as I remember him being fantastic in Crash. Jeffrey Wright came a long way from his role as Peoples in Shaft to play the Rev Martin Luther King Jr. I have several films on my list to see that he plays in and I am looking forward to seeing him in those roles. Boycott was a revealing and fascinating look at people's struggle for respect.
  • This movie was great because it gave you a different perspective on the Montgomery Bus Boycott. I thought the camera work was excellent. It goes between being a staged documentary to a film. It shows the major players of this movement as humans that have real feelings. I like this a lot because we tend to think of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ralph Abernathy as icons. They are/were people just like me and you. Jeffrey Wright is excellent in this film as MLK. He is a wonderfully, talented actor. Terrence Howard was good and I am glad to see him in a respectable role, finally. The cast was overall well put together. New found respect for the director, Clark Johnson.
  • This HBO films project seems like it's destined to be shown during civil rights units in American middle and high schools, though I fear it'll put the kids to sleep.

    I really enjoyed how artsy it was; director Clark Johnson plays with POV shots and has bystander characters voice their thoughts directly to the camera during certain moments in the film. There's some tricks with light bloom and flashbacks (including the brief depiction of a lynching victim swinging from a tree) as well, all in the name of providing broader racial and historical context to what is otherwise a tightly-focused character ensemble - until the final third, that is.

    I found the backroom deals, conversations and negotiations between the members of the burgeoning Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and the all-white town councillors and commissioners to be fascinating. I was unfamiliar with most of these real-life figures except Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, as I suspect many viewers will be. The actors and actresses are universally outstanding; I'm a big fan of CCH Pounder and was initially drawn to the film due to her involvement, though unfortunately her character of Jo Ann Robinson has less and less to do as the film goes on. The film is worth watching for Reg E. Cathey's performance as E.D. Nixon alone: he is fierce, stubborn and driven, with an often fractious relationship with the other members of the MIA. Erik Dellums steals all of his scenes as Bayard Rustin, a gay left-leaning activist who advises Dr. King in the last leg of the film and who in real life was a fascinating character - he totally deserves his own movie. (Fun fact: Dellums would later play a creepy philosophizing "doctor" who gets Damian Lewis addicted to heroin in an episode of Homeland that was also directed by Clark Johnson).

    Ultimately, the film's focus grows narrower and narrower until it's mostly about Dr. King (Jeffrey Wright) and his wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo, who would reprise this role in 2014's Selma). That's fine, but the film loses a bit of the ensemble spark that it began with. This story desperately needs to be revisited, especially since the court ruling that ended segregation on buses in Alabama - where this film ends - was in reality the beginning of even more white backlash, from bombings to black people including a pregnant woman being sniped, to people feeling so scared that they still rode in the back of the bus anyways. That's also a story that needs to be told.
  • I came across this film when searching for something to use to highlight the Montgomery Bus Boycott - it is quite simply brilliant! The atmosphere created by the director really drags you into this conflict and shows how the belief in peaceful protest is as powerful a force as anything out there. Jeffrey Wright is immense as MLK with able support from Terence Howard and the consequences of this amazing double act was you could hear a pin drop. The story is stirring and emotional yet never cheesy and is interspersed with clever news/interviews with people in the situation. This film really gets to the heart of the issue facing the people involved and never loses sight of its goal - loved it! This is one of the best films I have seen - a classic on a par with Shawshank.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Jeffrey Wright lacked the emotional charge needed to portray Dr. Martin Luther King.

    You would think that the writers would have given the part of Rosa Parks much more of a build up. Other than the first scene, when she refuses to yield her seat to a white person, the role of Ms. Parks is virtually non-existent.

    The movie is a definite decisive portrayal of the Montgomery Bus boycott and its rise of Martin Luther King to a leadership position in the movement.

    Some good acting is done by CCH Pounder as Ms. Robinson, a member of the committee.

    Sad to see that others would use Baynard Rustin's previous membership in the Communist Party to discredit the boycott. The movie shows what the white power structure in Alabama did in an attempt to end the refusal by blacks to use the public transportation system.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    In 1955, an African-American woman Rosa Parks(Iris Little-Thomas)refused to give up her seat in a "white only" section of a city bus in Montgomery , Alabama to a white man...thus the beginning of major civil rights battles in the 1950's and 1960's. This event was magnified by a lengthy bus boycott, with the blacks refusing to board even the "back" portion of a Mongomery bus. The champion of this movement was a young Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.(Jeffrey Wright), who preached protest without violence. Of course these times would be captured on newsreels to serve as history for the generations to follow. Others of note in this thematic made-for-TV drama: Terrence Howard, CCH Pounder, Reg E. Cathey, Carmen Ejogo, Shawn Michael Howard and Brent Jennings.
  • Filmed to resemble a documentary, "Boycott" is the story of the 13-month long Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott that resulted from Rosa Parkes' refusal to give up her seat on a city bus for a white man.

    Jeffery Wright offers a powerful performance as Martin Luther King, Jr. His resemblance to King - both in physical appearance and speaking style - is almost eerie. He is most definitely the highlight of this movie, particularly since no one else in the cast really stands out from the crowd.

    The film offers a pretty good step by step description of the boycott from a number of angles. It isn't shy about pointing out the power struggle within the black community over control of the boycott in its early days, and it dramatically portrays the extent (and the sheer lunacy) of racist sentiment in the South of that era.

    The movie suffers, though, from the decision to make it a mock documentary. Among other things, it simply takes itself much too seriously. Movies that pretend to be documentaries generally make neither great movies nor great documentaries. This is no exception. The jerky filming, the constant shifting into black and white for brief periods and for no apparent reason (except perhaps as a racial comment?) and the "interviews" with various characters didn't contribute very much. "Boycott" would have been much better as a straight drama. As it is, it manages to offer some valuable insights into Montgomery's racial problems in the 1950's, it has some truly wonderful music and it is an uplifting reminder that race hatred and violence can be overcome. So it isn't a bad movie; it just never quite seems to hit its stride, and it could have been so much better. It's good, but not great. 6/10.
  • I use movies as an adjunct to English class in a remote part of India. I like to show movies from different parts of the world or where students will also learn something about history or cultures, so I bought this movie sight unseen. I'm sure it's a great movie, but for my students it was much too slow moving and they started to lose interest. I was disappointed about that since I find this episode in history so exciting, but that's how it went in my class.

    If you use "Boycott" in an ESL class, be sure to give the background to the history beforehand. Don't worry about the accents -- they are clear, and the dialog is clear and slow enough, but a lot of background knowledge s required.