Bilal: A New Breed of Hero

Bilal: A New Breed of Hero

In Theatres: 
Feb 02, 2018
Running Time: 
105 minutes

Originally premiering in 2015 in the Middle East, Bilal: A New Breed of Hero is finally getting an international release here in the States nearly three years later. The animated adventure is inspired by the true story of Bilal ibn Rabah, a slave who would rise up against his oppressors to become a hero to his people. And while the animation does feel a little dated, its message about freedom and equality still very much ring true.


At a young age, Bilal (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and his sister were captured and sold into slavery where they worked under their cruel master, Umayya Ibn Khalaf (Ian McShane). All around him he sees people corrupted by greed and false idols. All he wants is freedom for himself and his sister. And while everyone else sees him as just another slave, the master of the merchants sees a true leader inside him, one who will change the lives of the people forever.


Bilal deems itself to be a “new breed of hero” but to be completely honest this story is nothing we already haven’t seen before; the story of how a slave rises against the odds to become a warrior and leader. While the film follows the same formula one can expect from the genre, it’s still interesting to see it set against a Middle Eastern backdrop. Bilal does a decent job at giving you the basics of who this real person was without overcomplicating his story. It’s an animated film, after all, so it’s not striving to be a biopic or something more serious. It’s a starting point, not a history lesson.


Since the film was originally done back in 2015, the animation does feel a little dated, especially when the camera moves up close to any of the people. The facial animations look and feel stiff and overly smooth, resulting in this uncanny valley feeling towards some of the characters. The environments remain absolutely gorgeous however, thanks to the attention to detail given to the world the film creates. One dream sequence in particular in which Bilal sees a sand version of himself riding a horse towards a fiery demon looks amazing. I found that Bilal looks best when it steps away from complete realism and goes for something a little more creative.


I can’t help but think I would have been more amazed had I seen Bilal just a couple of years ago. It’s a decent film but one that’s more suited for a night at home with the kids rather than a trip to the theaters. If you can look past the animation, you’ll find a story that stands the test of time.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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