Emancipation Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Review of the film

On December 9, Apple TV+ presented the new movie “Deliverance” directed by Antoine Fuqua with Will Smith in the lead role. This dramatic narrative is based on real events and takes place during a dark time in US history, but does not claim to be historically accurate. Moreover, it has a lot of fabrications for the sake of artistic expressiveness. In the review below, we tell you why this tape looks decent, even despite the mediocre ratings from American reviewers.

“Liberation” / Emancipation

Genre historical drama, action, military
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Starring Will Smith, Ben Foster, Mustafa Zakir, Gilbert Owuor, Michael Luvoy, Paul Ben-Victor
Premiere of Apple TV+
Release year 2022
IMDb site

1860s, Louisiana. Peter, a faithful slave, is forced to say goodbye to his wife and four children, because he is taken away to build a railway. With promises to return to his relatives, the man joins hundreds of unfortunates who have to endure brutal abuse and unquestioningly obey cruel supervisors.

One day, the main character hears out of the corner of his ear that Abraham Lincoln has already issued the Proclamation on Emancipation of the Slaves. Peter now harbors hope for liberation, but first he must somehow escape from his current abusers and reach the city of Baton Rouge, where the Union army was already stationed. This is how his uncompromising struggle will unfold not only for freedom and a chance to see his family, but also for his own life.


The opening credits try to reassure the viewer that this story is based on real events. Indeed, Will Smith is supposedly portraying slave Gordon here. He became famous thanks to the stunning infamous photo, which was called Whipped Peter and was published in Harper’s Weekly magazine on July 4, 1863. In it, Gordon shows off his back, disfigured by numerous scars from whipping.

But despite this, during viewing it becomes clear that the authors added many assumptions and fictional events to the story, obviously for the sake of artistic embellishment. In general, the film’s ambitions look somehow not too harmonious. The story begins very seriously and dramatically, but then that drama gives way to dramatic and even slightly fantastic adventures of Peter.

At the same time, the story will be one hundred percent survival. Here Fuqua, as the director of a bunch of action films, shows himself from the best side and uses a rich cinematic experience. Therefore, this part is viewed with interest. But at the same time, she repels any hints of claiming the award season and raises a lot of questions. For example, where does the main character come from so much knowledge that allows him to almost literally get out of the swampy Louisiana water dry?

Review of the film

However, the moment with rubbing onions to avoid detection by sniffer dogs is said to have actually happened. But the scene with the alligator is too much. The final act once again changes the direction of the genre, briefly turning “Liberation” into an epic military drama. And everything ends with a slightly manipulative sentimentality, which, however, is still able to move.

That is, it turns out that the film offers a tie of the level of the Oscar-winning “12 Years a Slave”, but in the course of the development of the plot it is transformed into a wild mixture of “The Legend of Hugh Glass” and “Hard Target” with Van Damme. The latter, of course, dealt with the snake more effectively than the hero here, but these are still characters of different weight categories and eras. In addition, the predatory opponent of the protagonist this time will be the aforementioned alligator, and not a grizzly, and this scene cannot be taken at face value.

One feels that the authors of the film initially tried to create something overdramatic and topical. Something that in a good way will be hard to swallow, especially for an American viewer. But later they succumbed to the temptation to perform a more down-to-earth and pop genre product – about struggle, survival and that’s all.


And although these events look really exciting, they nullify all the initial dramaturgical efforts. Then, when the time comes for a military blockbuster, it is already sharply dissonant with the previous material. In general, this genre roller coaster turns out to be the only, but significant drawback of the film and hardly spoils the overall impression.

On the technical side, as always at Fuqua, everything is done at the highest level. Robert Richardson’s camera effectively hovers over the Louisiana swamps, and the discolored frame adds to the bleakness of the already sad narrative. Will Smith himself, who won the Oscar for Best Actor in last year’s King Richard, again delivers a confident dramatic performance. But now we need to look at the situation realistically and remember Smith’s act at the award ceremony in March.

At that time, the Ukrainians were not ready for the Oscars, so we will remind you what happened. The actor took to the stage and gave a good slap to comedian Chris Rock, because he made a bad joke about his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith. Thus, Will has greatly damaged his own reputation, and today he must face the consequences of his act. Obviously, in today’s world, such antics will have an impact on the perception of films where Smith will play. At least in the near future.


So, Deliverance fails as a powerful drama, but feels comfortable within the survival genre. Perhaps it should have remained that way, not pretending to be anything more than a cheerful action film. The last half hour could also have been cut at the editing stage, because the mood and rhythm of it are noticeably different. However, the majority of Peter’s adventures are fun to watch, if not easy because of what this movie is about.

Pros: an interesting story based on real events, an exciting uncompromising narrative, excellent cinematography, well-staged battle scenes, good performances by Will Smith and Ben Foster, a touching finale Cons: a sharp jump from one genre to another, the victory of action over drama, some manipulativeness and procrastination in the story, the dubious realism of certain scenes Conclusion:

Deliverance comes across as a solid survival film and not an outstanding drama. It seems that the creators had a hard time deciding what exactly they wanted to get as a result. Here, the dark and painful page of the history of the United States is adjacent to the almost superheroic abilities of the boy scout martyr, but it is difficult for them to be next to each other. But in the end, the film is mostly exciting, although something more dramatically presentable could have been squeezed out of it

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