Controversial star Will Smith headlines his next big movie, Emancipation, which premieres soon on Apple TV Plus.
The film, directed by Antoine Fuqua, tells the triumphant story of Peter (Will Smith), a man who escapes from slavery, relying on his wits, unwavering faith and deep love for his family to evade cold-blooded hunters and the unforgiving swamps of Louisiana on his quest for freedom.
Streaming on: Apple TV Plus
Release date: Friday, Dec. 9
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Will Smith, Ben Foster, Charmaine Bingwa
Runtime: 132 minutes
The film is inspired by the 1863 photos of “Whipped Peter,” taken during a Union Army medical examination, that first appeared in Harper’s Weekly. One image, known as “The Scourged Back,” which shows Peter’s bare back mutilated by a whipping delivered by his enslavers, ultimately contributed to growing public opposition to slavery.
Here's what you need to know to watch Emancipation. Plus, check out the trailer below:
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When is the Emancipation release date on Apple TV Plus?
Emancipation arrives on Apple TV Plus on Friday, December 9. The film will likely arrive sometime around midnight PT / 3 a.m. ET / 8 a.m. GMT.
Apple TV Plus is available in more than 107 countries around the world.
Emancipation reviews are mixed, leaning toward negative. Currently, the film has a 51% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Here's a sampling of what critics are saying:
Manohla Dargis at the New York Times writes, "The movie is flawed; it features far too many aerial shots and one unfortunate scene with an alligator edges into exploitation-cinema absurdity."
Empire's John Nugent declares, "Emancipation can’t avoid the well-trodden hallmarks of slavery stories, nor offer a particularly fresh perspective on them. It’s best when it leans into other modes — and when it centres on Will Smith’s outstanding, understated performance.
Richard Roeper at the Chicago Sun-Times says, "Despite the undeniable importance of this story and the obvious passion of those involved in telling it, Emancipation is more than anything a relatively standard-issue, period-piece action film — and that’s a shame, because we see glimpses of how it could have been something much more than that."
Entertainment Weekly's Leah Greenblatt praises Smith's performance, saying, "His conviction carries Emancipation a long way, elevating what is essentially a B movie to the realm of something better than its outsize premise: a blunt instrument, maybe, but a brutally affecting one too."
Robert Daniels at RogerEbert.com writes, "Emancipation becomes an exhaustive, vicious, and stylistically overcooked recounting of a man whose very visage led the abolitionist charge. Emancipation is a hollow piece of genre filmmaking that rarely answers, 'Why this story and why now?'"