“The Underground Railroad,” the brand new Prime Video present based mostly on Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer-winning novel of the identical identify, makes for an attention-grabbing companion piece to “The Lengthy Music,” one other miniseries centering on a previously enslaved younger lady launched this 12 months. Each tasks are unflinching of their depictions of slavery and white supremacy — they respect the reality an excessive amount of to gloss over it — but are simply as involved with crafting complicated, fully-formed characters. The viewer will get a way of “The Underground Railroad’s” Cora and “The Lengthy Music’s” July’s ache and struggling, in fact, however in addition they come to know these girls’s needs, desires, quirks, and humorousness. Slavery is part of Cora and July’s tales, however it doesn’t solely outline them.
One other attractive manufacturing from Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight,” “If Beale Avenue Might Speak”), “The Underground Railroad” traces Cora’s (Thuso Mbedu) journey from enslavement on a Georgia plantation towards freedom within the north by way of the titular group, which on this alternate historical past is a literal subterranean system of tracks, tunnels, and conductors. She is initially satisfied to run by Caesar (Aaron Pierre), one other enslaved particular person on her plantation who believes Cora is nice luck as a result of her mom managed to flee. All through her travels, Cora meets many new individuals on the Railroad and in any other case, a few of whom are merciless, some duplicitous, and a few form.
All of the whereas, Cora is doggedly pursued by Ridgeway (Joel Edgerton), a bounty hunter who has tracked down each enslaved particular person he’s ever been employed to seek out, besides Cora’s mom, Mabel (Sheila Atim). Ridgeway is assisted by the inscrutable Homer (Chase Dillon), a free Black boy.
“The Underground Railroad” covers a variety of floor, geographically and thematically. The sequence, like its supply materials, explores the overarching legacy of white supremacy and anti-Black racism in America — not solely slavery, however eugenics, unethical and immoral scientific experiments, lynchings, sexual violence, and the whitewashing of historical past as properly. It’s an epic story, and, because the quiet but willful Cora, Mbedu acts as its anchor. This actress has essentially the most expressive eyes in current reminiscence: they convey all of the burdens Cora carries, the nightmares she has endured, her unhappiness and anger towards the mom who left her behind, and the hopes for the long run she barely lets herself acknowledge.
One of the pivotal strains from Whitehead’s e-book is delivered by somebody Cora meets early on in her journey: “If you wish to see what this nation is all about, it’s a must to trip the rails.” It’s a sentiment that stays with Cora, and one thing I stored eager about as I watched “The Underground Railroad.” If you wish to see the reality of what America is — its previous, current, and present trajectory — it’s best to watch this present. Cora’s story is usually very bleak, however it’s threaded by way of with resistance, resilience, braveness, and hope, too.
“The Underground Railroad” is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.