Over the years we’ve seen a lot of films about segregation and integration. Remember the Titans, The Help, Mississippi Burning are just a few films that have tackled the subject where schools and towns across the south separated Blacks and Caucasians into their own subsections. Black rights groups such as the Black Panthers and KKK chapters we’re the norm for most towns. In the 1970’s things were changing but some places like Durham, North Carolina were one of the few places still holding on to the old ways of the south where racism ruled with an iron fist and said KKK was the law.
When an elementary school catches on fire the status quo is about to change. Activist and mother Ann Atwater portrayed by Taraji P. Henson wants justice in the form of integration. She is a one-woman wrecking crew. She demands an audience with the city council and the mayor about inhumane living conditions for her brethren and the cheap landlord who won’t fix anything. Of course, she is ignored until the school fire. The mayor enlists the one man he knows who can convince the people to get things done in Durham. That is CP Ellis portrayed by Sam Rockwell the exalted cyclops of the Durham chapter of the KKK. The idea of a charrette was mentioned by one of Ann’s activist friends. Bill Riddick, portrayed by Babou Ceesay, was brought in to moderate it and bring these two distant sides together. Ann and CP were bitter enemies. Even enemies have things in common like family and faith. Maybe these two things can help bridge the gap between these two sides. The charrette divided the town even more than it already was.
Robin Bissell was known as a producer of such films as The Hunger Games, Seabiscuit and
Henson has given the world a lot of roles in movies and in tv but, this may be the best role of her life. She shows real heart and gumption. You feel what she’s going through as a character and that resonates throughout the film. Rockwell usually portrays villains or tortured souls. CP Ellis is a mix of both in The Best of Enemies. Rockwell portrays both sides with great gravitas. You hate him when he’s being smug and a racist and you love him when he’s being a father and family man. This film benefits from both of these prestigious actors and we as an audience were rewarded for it in spades.
The Best of Enemies is a great look at these subjects and this time in our history. The ups and downs in this film are earned from the beginning to the end. The emotions we feel are what this film deserves. It deserves people to say that’s a great film with great acting and great writing. I know it’s only March but, this is an Oscar-caliber film with Oscar caliber acting. This is the best film I’ve seen in 2019. Here’s hoping people love it as much as I did and that it stands the test of time. This has Oscars written all over it. I was blown away by how good this film was.
The Verdict – 4.5 out of 5 stars