Will Smith’s Emancipation gets first reviews

Will Smith’s new movie Liberation has received rather mixed reviews from critics.

The drama is the actor’s first film since his controversial hit at this year’s Oscars, the Apple TV+ film that sees him play an enslaved man who escapes from an 1860s Louisiana plantation while joining the Union Army in the North.

While Smith’s performance has been widely praised, there has been more criticism of the film’s use of violence and questions about whether it has anything new to say about the subject of slavery.

Related: LiberationAntoine Fuqua defends the release of the new Will Smith film after Oscar snub

Here’s what reviewers have said:

The Telegraph

“Will Smith’s new film was shot in the summer of 2021, long before The Slap was so much as a tingle in his palm. But if he had been specifically looking for a project that would make the world move on from the barracks of March’s Academy Awards […] he could hardly have found a more convincing one.”


“Whatever his current endeavors, Will Smith brings a movie star quality to this brutally violent Civil War drama, with a physical stillness and a defiantly steady gaze.”


Liberation cannot avoid the trodden characteristics of slavery histories, nor offer a particularly fresh perspective on them. It’s at its best when it leans into other modes—and when it focuses on Will Smith’s singular, understated performance.”

Apple TV+


“These kinds of films are fine if there is something beyond the generic. Is there something new to expect from what the audience is going to see? Is it something other than seeing relentless violence?

“The story of Whipped Peter and the impact he had on the culture of war and American slavery lives on to this day, but there has to be another way to tell these stories. There has to be another way.”

The Hollywood Reporter

“Hindered by a sparse and soulless script, Smith gives a performance characterized by facial expressions, physical movement and a Haitian accent that struggles to shake its studied quality. A perpetual frown and furrowed brow convey the harshness of Peter’s life, while an upright pose turns out. an unshakable self-possession.”


“Although the brutality is seemingly endless, we never succumb to the constant wave of pain – both physical and emotional. But when [director Antoine] Fuqua and [writer William N] Collage doesn’t focus on the cruelty of this world, the film stops dead, going through the motions, complete with derivative choices, characters and dialogue.

Liberationunfortunately, it always seems like it’s just a few changes away from being a fascinating film about this monstrous period in American history.”

Liberation will be released in select theaters on December 2, before streaming on Apple TV+ on December 9.

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