Harriet (Blu-ray Review)

Harriet Tubman seems to never be noticed for the sacrifices and struggles she sustained through.  Harriet was a woman of great strength and perseverance; whose resilience saw her become one of the greatest civil rights heroes of all time.  Her story is told here through Kasi Lemmons’ ever solid direction. The story takes us on a wild and occasionally tense ride through the story of The Underground Railroad and as mere passengers, we too are just as drawn into the story. Check out more in-depth below on Harriet which arrives in stores this Tuesday!


Let’s get one thing out of the way here.  Cynthia Erivo is a phenomenal talent. Her singing voice, which is what first garnered her acclaim is incredible in its versatility. Her acting roles have also been varied, playing singers, thieves, and now, a freedom fighter of historical regality.  She is the main draw of this film, and she gives an incredible performance.

Minty Ross (later Harriet Tubman, Erivo) is a slave on the Brodess Farm, owned by the Brodess Family (Joe Alwyn and Jennifer Nettles) whose farm is failing, while they hold desperately to their group of overworked slaves.  Minty is married to a freedman but the Brodess’s will not let her live with her husband or leave their farm despite having freed Minty’s father.  They are atypical of most slave owners, monstrous and hateful racists who have a sadistic twist too.  Minty has grown tired of waiting for the day she is offered a chance at her freedom and decides to take it upon herself to get up and go.  She learns of a route, and a way to escape too.  The local pastor (Vondie Curtis-Hall) who preaches on black folks being meant to be slaves, is doing more diligent work behind closed doors – Offering refuge to slaves on the run and giving them a place to hide and escape from within the church.  Once on her way, Minty treks all the way to the safety of Philadelphia.

To describe more of her first journey would be to give away too many exciting elements. Historically speaking, we all know she made it to her freedom.  Once in Philadelphia, Minty changes her name to Harriet Tubman, taking her mother’s and husband’s names as her own.  Harriet works her courage up to return home to rescue her family.  She uses the help of William Still (Leslie Odom, Jr.) and Marie Buchanon (Janelle Monae) to first refine herself and become the freedwoman she is, but also on how to navigate back home and survive the family rescue.  Still also is the first to catch on to Harriet’s epilepsy that she got sustaining beatings on the farm.

When Harriet does arrive home, she is tasked with not only taking some family members back to Philadelphia with her, but also other slaves from another farm.  They miraculously make it back to Philly, and Harriet then becomes a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad.  Also in the adventure of freedom escape, Harriet encounters Bigger Long (Omar Dorsey) who is a freedman but also a reverse racist, helping slave owners find and do away with his escaped slaves.  This leads to Harriet donning a disguise and becoming Moses, a legend who frees slaves.

Harriet has a ton of elements going on in it.  The factual story is one I’d like to hope most people know about.  The added elements only aide the story to make it more exciting.  This film is equal parts historical drama, action-thriller and inspirational/religious story.  The parts often come together in great ways but from time to time, the shift is jarring.  Violence and chase scenes give way to quiet scenes with beautiful photography.  Scenes set in montage are then placed next to quieter scenes of dialogue between two characters.  Sometimes this can throw the viewer off.  For me anyway, I wondered if they were going to make up their mind.

I thoroughly enjoyed Harriet as a new way to see historical or biographical films.  The editing may have been flawed to me, but I was sucked into the performances and the music and the gorgeous cinematography.  The film incorporates quite a few wonderful elements making this one an easy recommend for fans of period films, biopics and dramas.  Cynthia Erivo is incredible and her performance, dramatically and physically challenging is one to marvel at.  Most definitely worth a look!


  • Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Clarity/Detail: Harriet was finished with a 4K digital intermediate, so of course, clarity and detail are highlights of the transfer. The movie has a gorgeous, crystal clear look and there are details everywhere indoors or outdoors. One particular scene set at sunset is absolutely absorbing and gorgeous.
  • Depth: This transfer is a solid one for depth. There are many details in the interior scenes and outdoors, there is a wonderful bit of detail when looking deeply in nighttime shots as well.
  • Black Levels: Solid all around with no crush or greying spotted.
  • Color Reproduction: Colors are gorgeous for an SDR presentation. The sunset scene mentioned above is a standout and the period costumes and interiors are all treated to a nice evenly saturated presentation.
  • Flesh Tones: Flesh tones are gorgeous. No one character or actor looks the same, and the fact that we see those variable changes is huge. Everyone here looks just as they should.
  • Noise/Artifacts: None.


  • Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Spanish DTS-HD 7.1, French DTS-HD 5.1
  • Subtitles: English, French and Spanish
  • Dynamics: This is a spectacularly dynamic mix. Sounds envelope the listener in all scenes.  There is always something going on besides dialogue and music, be it nature sounds, conversation, or noises of animals or trains. A great listening experience from a dynamic standpoint, this one is nearly immersive!
  • Low Frequency Extension: Deep bass is evident in scenes involving chases, gunshots, fight scenes, and battle scenes. There are no flat moments or bass-lite here.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: I mentioned “near immersive” above for this very reason. Harriet is full of surround activity.  The sounds of the south and of Philadelphia are active. The sounds of bugs, horses, gunshots and more are everywhere in the mix that she should be in their placement in our speakers. Spectacular.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: Of course, being a dialogue driven film, we get a perfectly balanced mix to enjoy every line.


Harriet comes home in a Blu-ray combo pack with a DVD and Digital Code (That redeems in 4K… big surprise…) and that’s all housed in a slipcover. Extras are as follows:

  • Deleted Scenes (1080p, 15:35) – Some scenes appear to have been cut for time, and a couple could’ve helped to better explain some of the plot in the film. There is an introduction to Fredrick Douglas that would’ve been welcomed in the final film.
  • Her Story (1080p, 5:57) – A short look at the journey of getting Harriet on the big screen.
  • Becoming Harriet (1080p, 3:37) – A tiny look at Cynthia Erivo’s casting in the film. Way to brief.
  • Audio Commentary with Kasi Lemmons


Harriet works on many levels. It works as a starring role for the remarkable Cynthia Erivo. It works in telling a neglected historical story.  The has an uneven storytelling structure, and I sort of expected a little more than beautiful photography from Kasi Lemmons and got it from time to time.  I would definitely recommend this for fans of historical dramas and also to people who love seeing strong women on screen.  This film will likely be one shown in high school classes and it’s a good one in that capacity.  The film would’ve been killer on 4K Blu-ray as well, but you know if you’ve read other reviews of mine, that will always be a thorn in my side.  Her name is Harriet and she was incredible.

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