Release Date: February 2, 2018
Director: Khurram H. Alavi, Ayman Jamal
Writer: Ayman Jamal, Alexander Kronemer, Michael Wolfe, Khurram H. Alavi, Yassin Kamel
Cast: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ian McShane, China Anne McClain, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Michael Gross, Cynthia Kaye McWilliams, Jacob Latimore, Fred Tatasciore, Jon Curry, Mick Wingert, Dave B. Mitchell, Al Rodrigo, Andre Robinson, Sage Ryan, Quinton Flynn, Mark Rolston, John Eric Bentley, Keythe Farley, Sherrie Jackson, Garth Wynne-Jones
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 105 minutes
Production Company: Barajoun Entertainment, Resnick Interactive Development, Vertical Entertainment
Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure
Country: United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia
Budget: $30,000,000 (estimated)
This story depicts the real life of Bilal Ibn Rabah, who rose to power being an inspiring figure through the years of 580-640 A.D. Viewed through 3D computer animation, Bilal was born in Mecca, and was stripped from his family through violence, then thrown into slavery. He was known for his beautiful voice, and the daunting struggle he went through to break free of his mental, and physical chains to set a new precedence of freedom for his people. While Bilal was undoubtedly an important character in past time for the Muslim community, the film struggles to provide a clear narrative of all the important work that he accomplished. The film has a plethora of achievements to be proud of, but unnecessary speed bumps continuously halt its pacing, that stop all momentum when trying to build up.
By far the best portion of the film is the voice casting across the board. Tied together with brilliant sound mixing, and editing the trip to the theater is worth your time. Bilal is voiced by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and it’s the perfect match to showcase a strong, confident man that can demand change during tragic times. Fortunately, he isn’t the only one that steals your attention through incredible voice talent. Ian McShane as Umayya, and Al Rodrigo as Abu Al-Hakam both as well were born for the roles that they fulfilled.
Within the animation, it’s a task to decide if I’m pleased or not. It transitions back and forth between excellent quality, and mediocre. At times the slow-motion effects set the stage for the drama that unfolded on screen, while at other times it appeared it wasn’t finished. None of it was below standard levels, but there were many instances where it was obvious more focus was dedicated to certain points rather than others. It was unbalanced and a mild distraction for my viewing pleasure, which shouldn’t have been overlooked.
It was thrilling to see all the characters on both the protagonist and antagonist side. Whether I agreed with their position, or not it was a spectacle to see them all express their points of view. The problem lies with the structure of the story and pacing though. It was all over the place, losing itself every ten to fifteen minutes. It was strenuous to keep up, and you found yourself in a maze trying to decipher where everything was headed. For a while, I didn’t know what to expect, which in some cases could be great to be later surprised, but every time the story got interesting, it hit a brick wall knocking my excitement level back down. Other than following the story of Bilal that seemed to go nowhere. I asked myself repeatedly, “What was so special about this man that made him a hero?” He was very wise, and I respected him on an individual level, but there was nothing in the story that made him a standout as the stories suggest. That section of the film was just a short glimpse, and I was left asking, “Is that it?”
Towards the end of the film, there was a well-choreographed action scene that was a highlight for me. While standing out, it still didn’t provide the necessary attention for the titular character on why he was a hero during his time. The film failed by spawning out a large amount of time in Bilal’s life without giving him the necessary accolades to hold up the legend of his name. While he was a great man, and someone I wouldn’t mind getting to know, after seeing the film, I’m still confused on his legacy, which in the end feels like a huge letdown.