The Great Debaters starring Oscar Winners Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker

Atlanta, Ga. 12/28/2007 12:04 AM GMT (TransWorldNews)

The Great Debaters is a moving film that is based on the True Story about the Wiley College debate team in Texas in 1935. Melvin B. Tolson (Denzel Washington) is the coach of the debate team made up of Henry Lowe (Nate Parker), Samantha Booke (Jurnee Smollett), and James Farmer Jr. (Denzel Whitaker).


The film takes place during the depression in Texas where segregation is prevalent and supported by Sheriff Dozier, played with conviction by John Heard. Heard and Whitaker square off for an on-screen scene that becomes one of the moving moments in the film. The film flows and holds your interest and the fact that it’s based on a True Story helps.


Both Washington and Whitaker show their range in this film after roles in American Gangster and The Last King of Scotland. The two play educators. Dr. James Farmer (Whitaker) is the father of the youngest member of the debate team James Farmer Jr. (Denzel Whitaker) that Washington coaches. The characters differ where Melvin B. Tolson is an organizer establishing a union of both negros and whites known to be a trouble maker for the good, Dr. James Farmer stands for what is true and right and safe. The two have a heated discussion at a party after the debate team is victorious but the scene falls short after their two wives enter the room.


Melvin B. Tolson’s ultimate goal is finally accomplished when Wiley College is invited to Cambridge, Massachusetts to debate Harvard. The problem is Tolson can’t leave the state so the team is off on their own against the White Ivy League School. The scenes that follow play out and are well acted but fall a bit short. Anyone who would like to debate this is welcome to.


The film, like Charlie Wilson’s War, is worth seeing for the history involved and the truth behind it. The script is well written for the most part but falls short a few times when it didn’t have to. The Great Debaters will be as good on video as it is on the screen, no special effects no big scenes that make it worth seeing in the theater.


This film receives 3 out of 4 stars out of respect for Washington and Whitaker, Forest that is.


Movie Review: Peter Tosto


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