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Bilal: A New Breed of Hero (2015)

Not since the Prince of Egypt, have I had such an emotionally uplifting and spiritually moving experience watching a film. While I’m a huge fan of fairy tales and science fiction, sometimes it’s great to jump into the history books and learn something new. This is the exact case with the gorgeous film Bilal, a story that more than deserves to be considered one of the masterpieces of animation, coming to us from a beautiful country across the sea. Let’s take a closer look and see why this movie is so spectacular.

Spiritualism and Freedom

This is the first Middle Eastern film I’ve ever watched and reviewed, and I certainly hope it's not my last one. Based on real events centering around the Islamic faith, the movie tells the story of Bilal ibn Rabah, a man who rose from slavery and became the first muezzin to call people to prayer. It’s safe to say the film definitely takes artistic liberties (like The Prince of Egypt), but it does so in a respectful way. The film is a fusion of religious experience and action-adventure that works perfectly.

Emotional Core

Although Bilal is a religious film, its message can easily apply to all our lives, which makes it secretly brilliant. No matter what your spiritual beliefs may be, you can still sympathize with the characters and appreciate their goals. At one point in the film, one character says “No one is born a slave,” which drives the message of freedom and peace even further. If anything, Bilal represents a victory of the mind and soul. You feel stronger after watching it…take my word for it.

And nowhere does the film succeed more on the emotional front than the music. A combination of classic adventure marathons and peaceful cultural melodies, the soundtrack for Bilal invokes a mixture of peace and excitement. One moment, you feel like you are flying, only to feel light and refreshed in the very next shot.

Animation Splendor

Bilal is one of the few 3D films that I would call a “living cartoon.”

What do I mean by that exactly?

In the same manner as Disney’s Tangled, this film captures breathtaking landscapes and incredible details (a major perk of 3D animation), while the character expressions and emotions almost feel hand-drawn. Bilal has an incredible human touch that makes it feel dreamlike. Remember how you feel like you woke up from a beautiful dream after watching an incredible live performance? That is the only way I can describe this film. A living, colorful dream across the burning sands.

Voice Acting 

A review for this film wouldn’t be complete without talking about the voice acting. Overall, the English-language cast is pretty awesome and contains some big names. Bilal himself is voiced by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Suicide Squad), whose soft-spoken and empathetic voice drive the emotion home even more. Meanwhile, Ian McShane (Pirates of the Caribbean) lends his deliciously evil growl to the villain Umayya Ibn Khalaf. Voice acting greats Fred Tatasciore and David B. Mitchell also show up as two of Bilal’s companions, while China Anne McClain (of Disney Channel fame) brings her sassy and loveable personality to Bilal’s sister.

Final Thoughts

Bilal is the first Middle Eastern animated film I’ve ever watched or reviewed, and I certainly hope it’s not my last. This was one of the most spectacular movies I’ve seen in a long time. The voice acting and characters were spot-on. The animation was gorgeous, better than some Disney films I’ve seen. And the story is a timeless truth that we can all relate to.

Saddle up for adventure and check out this one for yourself. Bilal will always have my seal of approval.

FORMAT: DVD/ Digital FROM: Vision Films RATING:PG-13 RUNNING TIME: 1hr 45m