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The Great Debaters
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The Great Debaters More at IMDbPro »

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15 out of 29 people found the following review useful:


Author: swAppp from Lithuania
23 December 2007

I have just seen this new movie delivered to us from Mr Denzel Washington.

The movie concentrates on debates, equality and social justice. These three topics are really the main points in this movie, and the actors delivers them all quite nicely. Also, Denzel continues to impress me with a stunning performance - how can he be awesome in both director and actor seats?

The main idea of this movie is you have to do what you have to do in order to do what you want to do - you have to search for truth in order for others to act truthfully.. You have to stand and speak, just like the Spartans did stand and fight, if you don't want to fail or loose being nobody..

In my country, i'm also on the debate team, so I can even take some idea's from the movie and deliver them in my speeches. The speeches were pretty strange and simple, but it was still quite entertaining to listen and to compare to our own debates. Sadly, it was nothing like the real debates in USA looks - the speaker, who started the debates, also ended it? I don't know how creators would explain it, but never ever in debate tournament team gets benefit from saying more speeches than the other team.. In "The great debaters", it happened. However, it still can be just a little plot hole as they could have just skipped the last speech.. This is not like i want to spoil something or I didn't like the movie, i just think that even perfect movies are somehow imperfect..

Still, this was only a minor misunderstanding and i liked the movie very much. It's even marvelous for me.. Story delivers to a amazing and almost worth crying ending.. So watch it in theaters, don't hold back..

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16 out of 31 people found the following review useful:

Wow! Academy Award material for everything in this movie!

Author: jessie-39 from United States
28 December 2007

Simply spectacular movie with every single cast member worthy of an Oscar. Be it Denzel Washington to Forest Whitaker to the entire debating team of fine young actors. Each is worthy of an Academy Award nomination. The Movie was well directed by Denzel. This period piece set in the 1930's had great costume and set designs that were done very very well. I would expect great things from this movie for all of the new young people and another notch in his belt for Denzel and more appreciation for Forest Whitaker. Don't miss it. Kids over 8 yrs old will also enjoy it. We have seen 71 movies this year and consider this to be one of the best. It surely is among our top 5 for 2007.

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A Great, Non-Confrontational Look At The Jim Crow South

Author: zkonedog from United States
12 March 2017

In my opinion, Denzel Washington is the foremost actor (in terms of actual talent, not money making ability) of our generation. Yet, my one beef with him has often been his very sympathetic, almost revisionist-history take on certain race issues, such as Malcolm X or the story of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. In those types of films, one race can do no wrong while the other is the root of all evil, which (in reality) is usually never the case. When viewing this film, then, I had myself steeled for that sort of thing once again...the "take with a grain of salt" mentality. Fortunately, this movie had zero problems in that area.

The film tells the story of the small Wily College debate team in 1930s Texas (deep in the Jim Crow South) under the tutelage of the famous Melvin Tolson that took on all-comers (big or small) and defeated nearly every one of them. Yet, despite the amazing feats accomplished by that debate team, the real message of this film centers on the actual issues that are being debated, mainly having to do with civil rights or civil disobedience. This is where the debate format comes in very handy, as it allows for both sides of those important issues to be aired in the film. Does some bias show? Yes. Yet, everyone has their own opinion, and the bias that is evident in the film does not go beyond that.

The acting in this movie is also terrific. Washington is at his cool-as-a-cucumber best, while the young acting talent (forming the debate team) is also very strong. The presence of Forest Whitaker is another plus.

Overall, this is a great film that will really get you thinking about the issues that plagued the Jim Crow South. Most importantly, though, you will be able to see both sides of the story before making your decision. While in the film the judges decide who wins each debate, you can decide for yourself what you believe to be the most convincing argument.

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One of Denzel Washington's best movies

Author: Ross622 from United States
2 March 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"The Great Debaters" was Denzel Washington's second movie as a director and it is one of the best movies that he has ever done. The movie stars Washington as Professor Melvin B. Tolson who teaches at Wiley College which at the time during the 1930's was an all black college located in Texas. As the title of the movie happens to give away during the early scenes of the movie Tolson decides to start a debate team that even though it has very few members during the course of the movie the team proves to be very effective with a strong winning record when it comes to debating other colleges from all across the country climbing the ladder from debating just black colleges in the beginning to debating white colleges near and towards the end of the movie. The team members include James Farmer Jr. (Denzel Whitaker, who isn't related to Forest Whitaker) whose father James Farmer Sr. (Forest Whitaker) also happens to be a college professor, Samantha Booke (Jurnee Somllett-Bell) and a few others. Washington's direction for this movie is so good along with Robert Eisele's screenplay the movie really makes you feel like you are really there in the debate audience watching these characters or at least that's how I felt while watching the movie. This isn't the only movie that Denzel Washington starred in in 2007 the other film being Ridley Scott's "American Gangster" which was also based on the true story of mobster Frank Lucas in which Washington also happened to give a great performance. Because of this movie i'm looking very much forward to seeing the other two films that were directed by Denzel Washington which are "Antwone Fisher" (2002) which was his first film as a director, and his most recent film "Fences"(2016). This is the best civil rights drama that I have seen so far and is one of 2007's very best films.

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For a Film About The Power of Speech, it is The Quiet Moments of Rapture That Say Everything!

Author: sandnair87 from India
15 February 2016

The Great Debaters chronicles a chapter in the life of a fascinating man, Professor Melvin B. Tolson, who created quite a name for himself by assembling a prodigious all-black debate team, while also creating a stir with his radical politics.

The movie takes place in Marshall, Texas in 1935 at the all-black Wiley College. On the first day of class, Tolson (Denzel Washington oozing the charisma, intensity and barely reined rage he always taps into) announces the debate team tryouts at his house the same night. The tryouts draw 45 students, vying for four positions. He eventually staffs the debate team with an eclectic rag-tag group of debaters: Intelligent-but-brooding Henry Lowe (Nate Parker), who is a randy loose cannon, makes the team, along with returning member Hamilton Burgess (Jermaine Williams). The team is rounded out by alternates Samantha Booke (Jurnee Smollett), an absolute stunner and the only female to try out, and James Farmer, Jr. (Denzel Whitaker), the 14-year-old son of the college president, who has the experience to do the massive research required for the debates. Tolson employs unrelenting, unconventional methods to train his team, which pay off in victory after victory in debates with other Black colleges. Unbeknownst to his students, Tolson writes to several white universities to try to secure an unprecedented debate with one of them; his ultimate dream is a long-shot debate with Harvard.

No story works well without conflict and The Great Debaters brings it on in the second act. Personal relations become a problem when Samantha and Nate form a couple, and James – who has had a crush on Samantha from day one – can no longer control his anger over their relationship. Another problem arises when the local police learns of Tolson's secret dealings trying to help unionize the local sharecroppers and farmers, a mixed-race partnership. But Tolson and the four under his tutelage fight not only with the racism of the time but also with tensions within their own ranks, as they eventually get the coveted shot against Harvard.

As is well-known, academic competitions are addictive nail-biters. When you add the racial tensions of a segregated South, you've got a powerful emotional dynamic. Enough fictional liberties were taken with the movie to make it fit neatly on the inspirational genre shelf, but it's grounded in enough reality to excuse Robert Eisle's we-shall-overcome contrivances. Denzel Washington's crisp direction and the sharp performances by everyone – giving us characters we can root for - help to leaven the inspirational emphasis of the screenplay while steadily building tension. Surprisingly, for a film about the power of speech, it's the quiet moments of rapture that say everything.

The Great Debaters may be accused of being naked in its shameless desire to make audiences wince at every setback and cheer at every victory. The strength of the movie is that it gets away with it almost every time. By the time it's over, even cynics will be fighting the impulse to stand up and cheer.

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Great story but not so good in the development

Author: Johan Dondokambey from Indonesia
25 February 2015

The story is another of the factual based tale that receives little spotlight in the mainstream cinema. Overall it's based and also executed quite well. But the development leave me quite curious and wondering that it can be done far more better. It's because the screenplay looks as it puts too much weight to the side plot of the romance angle whereas it should be focusing more on the political and the racial issues side plots. That would make the movie more serious and thrilling, as it should be done for me. The acting overall is quite a good one. Denzel Washington did a pretty good job here, double timing as giving a good serious character acting and directing. Forest Whitaker nicely portrays the strict yet logical-thinking preacher. The team of Nate Parker, Denzel Whitaker and Jurnee Smollett Bell is having more than needed exposure on the relationship while their more significant performance on the debate is often replaced with montages.

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The GREAT Debaters

Author: demon-martinez8
15 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie was fantastic. Aside from a few minor details that I can get over, it was perfect. It was an amazing movie due to its well acting from Denzel Washington to Forrest Whiticker to even the younger & newer cast, they were amazing. The writing was also something to watch out for as it was extremely well written. It keeps you engaged into the movie from start to finis & the fact that it is based on a true story makes it all that better. This is the 2nd time I've watched it & I now remember why I like it so much. It deals with racism at the time which is always interesting to see. Overall a great movie that I do recommend you guys watching…

For Those Who Wanna See Me Review Other Movies, Head To My Youtube Channel At "Daniel Mart"

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Formulaic feel good movie

Author: KineticSeoul from United States
7 January 2015

This is formulaic feel good movie that has some good messages. But isn't all that intellectual. Don't get me wrong, it's still a good movie for adults. Kids on the other hand will most definitely get bored real fast with this one though. When it comes to the story, they added in some fiction but is ultimately predictable. Which is understandable since it's based on a True Story. Most movie goers will get how this movie will go from point A to point B to point C really quickly. Jurnee Smollett-Bell was just fantastic as Samantha Booke. There is few violent and little bit of sexual themes, but the violence isn't there for entertainment value or just for it to be there. It actually plays a part when it comes to the core of the story. So will you be emotionally charged after watching this movie? Maybe. Will you have new perspective and new mindset or have something really to ponder upon. Probably not.


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Moving flick based on a true story

Author: jb_campo from United States
9 May 2014

The Great Debaters is a no-holds barred depiction of a disgusting time in American history in an upsetting era of extreme racism in the south. Fine acting by the entire cast, particularly Nate Parker as Henry Lowe, an emotionally charged young black student without fear. He pushes Denzel Washington (Melvin Tolson) who teaches the students debating at Wiley College, an all-black college in Texas. Looking back from the present time, you think blacks, Texas, 1930's - this is not going to be pretty...and it wasn't.

You feel the seething undercurrent of mistreatment throughout, starting with the young woman (Jurnee Bell as Samantha Booke) who arrives in town to attend Wiley. She gets off the bus and the only bench is marked - whites only. Fights, arrests, guns, violence (some direct, some implied), lynching, the whole 9 yards. Sometimes I felt like I wanted to cry, other times, just throw something. The utter stupidity of the times is shocking.

I guess the film, backed by Oprah and Denzel, really wanted to show how much blacks have had to overcome, and how there were many who preached using your mind, and words, not violence, to debate, to fight, to stand up for yourself - to get ahead.

The final scene involves the juxtaposition you would expect from a typical Hollywood ending. Rich, white kids facing off against poor, black kids. Who will win? Let me just say that the final speech from the young Mr Farmer will move you.

If you liked Ghandhi, or even Mississippi Burning, you will enjoy The Great Debaters. The only critique is the film editing, where they probably could have shortened many scenes to bring this closer to 100-110 minutes - minor point.


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Fascinating slice of history

Author: SnoopyStyle
9 February 2014

It's 1935 Wiley College Texas. Professor Melvin Tolson (Denzel Washington) coaches the debate team with a bunch of raw youngsters. James Farmer Jr. (Denzel Whitaker) is one of the kids. His father Dr. James Farmer Sr. (Forest Whitaker) is an over bearing preacher. Meanwhile Tolson is trying to organize both black and white farm hands to unionize.

This movie has its moments. Directed by Denzel Washington, this movie allows all the actors to shine. But as a visual drama, debates are not the most physical endeavors. If the competitions are real, they do not make for a compelling story. After all, good debaters take both sides of the debates with equal gusto. There are some good exchanges. However the debates feel both overwrought and fake. It's arguable whether a real debating contest could ever be truly cinematic.

The movie is very earnest in its story. There are great slices of the time. The unionizing effort seems to be the better story. And the puppy love is too much melodrama. I can't really feel sorry for the boy. Mostly for the subject matter and the great actors involved, I would recommend this movie.

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