FEBRUARY 2, 2018 -- Bilal ibn Rabah was one of Islamic prophet Muhammad's closest companions and a hero of the ancient Muslim world. However, few outside of the Islamic realm have ever even heard of him. First time directors Khurram H. Alavi and Ayman Jamal attempt to tell his story in this new animated film.


The film tells the story of how Bilal (voiced by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and his sister Ghufaira (Cynthia Kaye McWilliams) were made a slaves after their mother was killed during a raid. His master is Umayya (Ian Shane) whose son Safwan (Mick Winget) challenges Bilal throughout childhood an into adulthood.

Bilal has visions of being a great warrior but gets a call to Islam as an early adult. Despite efforts by Umayya to force Bilal to renounce his newfound beliefs (over idol worshiping), Bilal stays true to his faith until he is saved by Okba (Michael Gross), another person of wealth.


This saves him but not his sister, so he spends the rest of the film preparing to rescue his sister and enacting revenge on Umayya. This leads to bloody battle after bloody battle making this a film not recommededd for younger children (it is rated PG-13 which is generous).


Aside from the violent nature of many of the scenes the animation is uneven. The backgrounds and even the animals are composed with considerable detail while the human characters are featureless and two dimensional. For fans of animation, this mixed effort will be annoying - after all, why does a stick have more detail than the character holding it? Clearly artists Mahesh Naidu and Yuanda Yu weren't on the same page while styling drawing the film elements.


The voices and sound were superb and the pacing is acceptable with a run time of 105-minutes, but again, who is the target audience? Still, it is a considerable effort to attempt to bring an animated feature concerning Islam to the masses.


It should be noted that when the film was release overseas in 2016, it flopped big-time.


"Bilal: A New Breed of Hero" is moderately interesting, unevenly animated and difficult to recommend to anyone under the age of 17. Whatever first it achieves in symbolic first are negated by its dark nature.   -- GRADE C- --   GEOFF BURTON