The Underground Railroad is a limited series based on the Pulitzer-winning novel of the same name by Colson Whitehead. Directed by Academy Award winner Barry Jenkins, The Underground Railroad stars Thuso Mbedu, Chase W. Dillon and Joel Edgerton. Aaron Pierre, William Jackson Harper, Sheila Atim, Amber Gray, Peter De Jersey, Chukwudi Iwuji, Damon Herriman, Lily Rabe, Irone Singleton, Mychal-Bella Bowman, Marcus “MJ” Gladney, Jr., Will Poulter and Peter Mullan.
The Underground Railroad follows Cora Randall in the Antebellum South as she escapes a Georgia plantation after learning about an underground railroad. She finds out that the underground railroad isn’t a metaphor, but an actual rail road and secret network of tracks under the Southern soil. Her journey isn’t that easy as she is relentlessly pursued by a bounty hunter named Arnold Ridgeway, who is determined to catch her and bring her back to the plantation she escaped.
Storytelling Through the Lens of Barry Jenkins
The Underground Railroad captures the poignant story of various characters in a spectacular way. The cinematography, editing, and colour grading are top-notch, making the limited series look like a visual masterpiece. Barry Jenkins’ directorial vision and his unique style of filmmaking adds a new layer of depth to an already amazing narrative. Adding to that, the excellent use of sound effects and background music breathes new life into every scene.
Several scenes in The Underground Railroad will stay with you, thanks to how the creative team has written and captured them. This is one of those limited series that I plan on revisiting after a few months to explore things I might have missed, which will definitely make me appreciate The Underground Railroad even more.
Cora’s Journey of Finding Hope
A recurring theme in The Underground Railroad is how racism will find its way to ruin lives of African Americans. As Cora runs away from her Georgia plantation to South Carolina and then to North Carolina, she discovers the different forms of racism in the Antebellum South. From owning African American slaves to creating a facade of welfare for African Americans to straight up killing each and every one of them, Cora has seen it all. Even after being constantly attacked by racist people and chased by a bounty hunter, Cora rises above all her atrocities as a symbol of hope and resistance.
Capturing the Hellish Lives in the Antebellum South
The Underground Railroad puts every major character under a microscope and explores their backstories in great detail. This allows the limited series to create complex characters, who have clear motivation for their actions. With deeper exploration of characters, The Underground Railroad’s overall narrative becomes much more effective. The journey of characters like Cora, Caesar, and Jasper will keep haunting you days after you have finished watching the series.
Racism, Identity, and Religion
While reviewing The Good Lord Bird, I noticed that the series explored how racism, identity, and religion are interconnected. The Underground Railroad dives deeper into the complex relationship between them.
After running away from the Georgia plantation, Cora has to live under an alias at some point to avoid being caught by the bounty hunter, Arnold Ridgeway. Although her cover is blown later, Cora is unable to embrace her true identity and make peace with her past. With Cora’s story, The Underground Railroad shows how racism has forced African Americans to be in denial of their own identity.
Several white characters in The Underground Railroad use religion to justify their atrocious behaviour towards African Americans. According to them, white people are the superior and the purest race of humans. To counter this ignorance, some white people in The Underground Railroad use religion as a means to cope with racism. These people preach religion to African Americans and advise them to believe that the divine force will protect them against the oppression. This represents the helplessness some white people feel as they cannot openly disagree with the racist ideas in their community. All of these fictional elements reflect on reality itself.
The Underground Railroad brilliantly captures the story of African Americans in the Antebellum South. The series highlights how minorities have remained hopeful and showed strength in trying times, which has inspired future generations to stand up against racism. With what’s happening in the US since ages, stories like The Underground Railroad serve as a sign of resistance against racism and sparks hope for a better future.
The Underground Railroad is set to debut on Amazon Prime Video on May 14.