Welcome to the Ending Explained for Emancipation, the new Will Smith film arriving on Apple TV this weekend. The film is the first coming from the actor after his controversial actions in the latest Oscar Ceremony, where he struck Chris Rock with a slap after the comedian made a joke about Smith’s wife. Smith has been fearful that audiences would abandon him after the incident, but I am pretty sure that those who were really affected by the incident were not really part of his audience in the first place.
The film is directed by Antoine Fuqua, who brings with himself his usual gritty style back into form, but the movie feels shallow even when trying to portray the horrors of slavery. The movie also chooses to present itself using a very desaturated cinematography that just looks ugly in every way. The look of the film seems to be there to display the dark world the characters live in, but it just makes you disconnect from the movie, as it looks completely unnatural. Going for an actual black-and-white look would have been more striking. Smith is great, but the surrounding movie doesn’t support his commitment to the role.
The following paragraphs contain spoilers for Emancipation. Read at your own risk.
How Does Peter Escape From Slavery?
The film begins with the introduction of Peter, played by Will Smith, and his family. Peter is a slave working on a cotton plantation, and he is saying goodbye to his family, his wife, and his children. Peter is being sold, and the result is that he is being separated from his family and will possibly never see them ever again. He promises he will come back for them, but at this stage, that promise sounds like just wishful thinking. Peter is transported to a camp, where he is put to work building train tracks.
There he meets other slaves, like John and Gordon. They all begin suffering the strain of the work, but it is clear that Peter is stronger than all of them, not only physically but also in the mind. He places his faith in God and tells himself that God is with him, even when the other slaves mock him. If there is actually a God, why would God allow this suffering? It is a discussion that has existed since the concept of God appeared in people’s minds. The movie gives no answer to the question; of course, it is just too complicated.
While working, Peter overheard that Lincoln had proclaimed that all slaves were to be freed. Peter and the slaves don’t know it, but not far from there, there is a war taking place between the north and south. Slavery and the freedom of the slaves are very much one of the main issues being talked about in such a war. Peter begins to plan his exit, and other slaves tell him that the moment he chooses to run, then they will follow. One day, as Peter is being forced to take another slave into the body pit, he decides this is the moment to escape.
Peter is followed by the other three slaves, and they run to the swamp, as they need to cross it and reach the place where they can meet with Lincoln’s army and be free. Jim Fassel, the camp’s hunter, starts to chase them, and soon enough, he captures his first prey and kills the slave. Only three remain now, and they go separate ways as they will be harder to track. Peter runs, but the dogs have their scent, so they keep chasing him.
Does Peter Manage To His Family Again?
Peter runs through the swamp and manages to execute clever tricks to always be one step ahead of Fassel. At one point, he is discovered by a white girl, and she alerts everyone about him. Just another way to display how the slave culture was engrained in the people of the time, no matter if you were a kid or an adult. Still, Peter escapes and dares even the powerful alligators to eat him. He almost gets eaten, though, but escapes. His wife, back at the plantation, senses he is still alive and that he is coming to them.
Peter comes across another plantation, but this one is in a very different state from the others. There has been an uprising on this plantation, and the result is death and destruction everywhere. He finds a little girl inside the house, and she is in a terrible state. Fassel’s henchmen, which include another black man, catch up to him, but Peter kills them both. Fassel also catches up to Peter, but before he can kill him, Fassel receives a shot in the neck, killing him on the spot.
Peter’s saviors are black soldiers fighting for the north. They take Peter and put him in the infirmary. There, Peter recovers. However, he finds out that he is still not free and that he only has two options, work on a farm or join the army. He decides to join the army to go back south for his family and kick the slavers’ asses. At that moment, a picture of him is taken, a picture that will later travel around the world as a representation of slavery, a picture that will make him famous for generations.
Peter fights alongside the other black soldiers and goes down south. There, Peter takes his arms and kills the southern soldiers, and he and the army push forward. He finally reaches the plantation where his journey started. Peter finally meets with his wife and kids and embraces them, as all slaves are informed that they are free.