Harriet ★★★

Harriet would be a fairly rote historical drama—with a portentous score, forced speechifying, and thin villains—were it not for the prophetic streak at its core. Cynthia Erivo plays Harriet Tubman, the most famous of the Civil War-era “conductors” who led enslaved people out of the American South. When we first meet her, she is waking up from one of the spells she regularly experiences—visions that at first mix dreams with memories, but eventually include warnings about the future. Taking these to be messages from God, Harriet follows them as she first escapes on her own (an undoubtedly miraculous journey) and then returns to the South to help others down similarly perilous paths as part of the Underground Railroad. She’s both Moses and Jeremiah, leading prisoners to freedom while condemning oppressors for their evil ways. Director Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou) flexes her filmmaking muscles during those spells—desaturating the screen and sprinkling in eerie animal imagery—while Erivo anchors even the hokiest scenes with exactly the qualities a faith-forward telling like this needs: conviction and fervency.