Sunday, 10 November 2013

12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave is one of those old-fashioned historical dramas that are relatively rare these days. Like last year’s Lincoln, this one takes place in the U.S. during the middle of the19th century and concerns the subject of slavery. If anything, 12 Years a Slave is even better than Lincoln (and Lincoln was one of my favorite films of 2012). 

12 Years a Slave, as the title suggests, tells the true story of Solomon, a man who was kidnapped from his home town in New York State in 1841 and sold into slavery in Louisiana, where he worked as a slave for twelve years. Solomon’s wife and two young children had no idea what happened to him and he had no way of contacting them. 

12 Years a Slave is a harrowing tale which is told simply and without sentimentality. It features extraordinary performances all around, but particularly outstanding is the acting of Chiwotel Ejiofor as Solomon, Michael Fassbender as one of the slave owners and Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey, a fellow slave (all three of those performances are Oscar-worthy). Benedict Cumberbatch and Brad Pitt also do very well in lesser roles. 

12 Years a Slave is brilliantly directed by Steve McQueen, with a perfect sense of pace. The cinematography is excellent and the score works well, though I kept thinking that the composer should apologize for stealing the sounds of Hans Zimmer. It somehow never occurred to me that Zimmer might be the composer. I’m not sure if that makes the theft better or worse.

One could point to minor flaws like some dialogue that doesn’t sound authentic or the overall dispassionate feel of the film, but 12 Years a Slave is a masterpiece of cinema and gets an easy ****. My mug is up and I recommend it highly to most readers, though there are a couple of scenes which some people will find very difficult to watch. 

1 comment:

  1. This film had the same sobering effect as others I've seen over the years, where the subject is slavery (Roots, Amistad, Amazing Grace). The scene where Patsey was being whipped to shreads just about ripped my heart