‘Rustin’ Movie Review: Should You Watch Colman Domingo’s Biopic?

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rustin netflix movie review

Picture: Netflix

Premiering at Telluride & the Toronto International Film Festival forward of its transient theatrical run, Rustin tells the true story of civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, a strategist and activist selling nonviolent methods for social change for over half a century. He’s finest recognized for organizing the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the platform for Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Rustin’s work was generally hampered by many thought of controversial pasts, together with membership within the Young Communist League; a three-year jail time period for refusal to cooperate with the army on conscientious grounds; and his open homosexuality, together with an arrest for lewd vagrancy. However, his work & his legacy has persevered into the fashionable age as he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

It ought to come as no shock that the person who granted Rustin that award can be the person who’s behind the manufacturing of the movie: former President Barack Obama. Under his Higher Ground Productions banner, Rustin is the third Netflix characteristic movie the Obamas have produced (Fatherhood & Worth earlier than this) earlier than its fourth characteristic, Sam Esmail’s Leave the World Behind, is launched in December. Higher Ground has additionally produced a number of award profitable documentaries for Netflix together with Oscar Winner American Factory & Independent Spirit Award Winner Crip Camp.

The Obamas aren’t the one Oscar Winners to be related to the movie as screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who gained Best Original Screenplay for the Gay rights biopic Milk again in 2009, co-wrote Rustin alongside “When They See Us” scribe Julian Breece. The movie is directed by Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom helmer George C. Wolfe, who guided that movie to 2 Oscar wins and 5 nominations for Netflix in 2021.

Wolfe has introduced alongside a number of stars from his SAG & Critics Choice nominated Ma Rainey ensemble, together with Bayard Rustin himself, Coleman Domingo, Glynn Turman as A. Philip Randolph, & Michael Potts as Cleveland Robinson. The movie’s deep roster of performing expertise additionally consists of Aml Ameen (“The Porter”, Red Tails) as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., CCH Pounder (“The Shield”) as Dr. Anna Hedgeman, Chris Rock (Dolemite Is My Name) as NAACP head Roy Wilkins, & Primetime Emmy & Golden Globe Winner Jeffrey Wright as Representative Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

The power of Rustin lies with its namesake; an distinctive & vibrant man carried out exceptionally & vibrantly by Domingo, an underrated & neglected actor whose vary & magnetism on this movie will catapult him up the ranks into extra outstanding roles sooner or later. Whenever he’s on display screen, he attracts us in and lifts us up. His brashness & ratatat dialogue combined along with his hanging appears instructions each scene and forces the viewers to absorb the messages we have to hear.

The movie’s tempo & rating appear to match the vitality of Rustin himself; with a lightness & allure that’s normally not harking back to a 60s civil rights period story. Snappy & sappy all on the similar time with a horn led backing association and a decent runtime.

rustin netflix movie november 2023

Picture: Netflix

However, whereas George C. Wolfe is an distinctive theater presence, his course continues to be a piece in progress. With lower than notable cinematography, stage play blocking, and soapy & speechifying performances at occasions, Wolfe leans extra in direction of his theater course than a extra theatrical one. The movie feels extra akin to Netflix’s The Boys within the Band at minimal or The Trial of the Chicago 7 at its finest; each directed by males who’re getting their bearings on the helm of a movie versus their earlier lives in theater, screenwriting, or each.

However, one factor George C. Wolfe appears to be nice at is accumulating gifted performers. Everywhere you appeared in Ma Rainey and now round each nook in Rustin, you see a powerful actor lighting up the display screen or anchoring the drama. His movies are all the time sound of message and brimming with the perfect & brightest those who line as much as work for him and his plain muses like August Wilson and now Bayard Rustin. You’ll by no means be bored or misplaced in a George C. Wolfe movie, which is an accomplishment in itself.

Overall, Rustin is one other profitable movie for the Obamas & Higher Ground Productions. Though it might lean much less cinematic & extra over-the-top, the vitality, the messaging, & the performances will fill you up and fill you in. Colman Domingo places the movie on his again and by no means relents. He continues to impress audiences and he could impress voters come award season.


Watch Rustin on Netflix If You Like

  • Milk
  • Selma
  • Till
  • MLK FBI
  • John Lewis: Good Trouble
  • thirteenth
  • Worth
  • Ghosts of Mississippi

MVP of Rustin

Colman Domingo as Bayard Rustin

For a few years, Colman Domingo has been a shape-shifting scene stealer. From indie initiatives like Zola & If Beale Street Could Talk to extra excessive profile movies like Candyman & the newest Transformers film, Domingo exhibits that the highlight isn’t too large or too small for him to make a big impact. Now, with a outstanding main position that has Awards Season potential, Domingo raises his sport as soon as once more. In Bayard Rustin, he finds the right concord of charisma & ache that solely permits like to get in the way in which of his ambitions. There is nobody else who may have carried out this position so admirably whereas going toe to toe with the remainder of his spectacular solid.


Colman Domingo and the exuberance & spirit of Bayard Rustin make for an impressive mixture. While the course & cinematography may not depart you impressed, the solid & story is likely to be sufficient to impress.

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