12 Years a Slave
October 18, 2013 (NY/LA)
November 1, 2013 (WIDE)
Fox Searchlight Pictures
2 hours 14 minutes
It's been less than a year since Quentin Tarantino unchained "Django" to the general masses. The response to it, other than Spike Lee's outlash, was overwhelmingly positive. This helped the darkly comedic action thriller about one newly freed slave's journey to rescue his enslaved wife receive many nominations in the awards circuit, as well as a Best Supporting Actor win for Christoph Waltz. Back in October, acclaimed director Steve McQueen released a movie about slavery that accurately depicts it to the core, so much so that it's often a hard film to sit through. That film, of course, is "12 Years a Slave," and if you haven't seen it yet, you owe yourself to go to the nearest theater and endure the pain and hardship that Solomon Northup went through when he was sold into slavery in 1841.
The irony of the movie is in the fact that the cinematography, done by Sean Bobbitt, looks incredible, and yet the subject matter and the imagery presenting the brutality of slavery make the movie itself hard to watch at times. I give credit to Steve McQueen for not only showing us arguably the most accurate representation of slavery ever put on film, but also making us feel and understand exactly what Solomon Northup went through. When Solomon was hung by the neck with just a bit of muddy ground below him enough so he could stand on his toes and prevent himself from dying, we felt Solomon's pain and how slowly time went for him as he was on that noose for an entire day with no help from others. What impresses me even more is how far many of the actors went in order to either portray themselves as vicious, desperate, evil, or in absolute pain.
Chitwel Ejiofor has always been one of those great character actors who you'd see in a film and recognize, but not be able to recall his name. With the character of Solomon Northup, Ejiofer has finally been able to prove himself as a truly gifted actor who can take this persona and make it his. Every scene with Solomon was heartbreaking and powerful, and that is mainly because of Ejiofer's powerhouse performance. Equally as great in the film is Michael Fassbender, who portrays vicious slave owner Edwin Epps.
Every single time this man came on screen, chills went down my spine and my heart started pumping because you never know what he's going to do next. There is one particular scene with Epps approaching Solomon about a letter he supposedly wrote that I would argue as being the most suspenseful scene in any movie this year. Both men show how insanely talented they are, and I feel that both are the obvious scene stealers whenever they're on screen. The rest of the cast, including small performances from Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Lupita Nyong'o, wrere all all fantastic, I just felt that Fassbender and Ejiofer made the movie theirs, and together share some of the most heart-wrenching scenes put on film in 2013.
I understand that I'm probably the last person to the table when it comes to seeing this film. Seeing another person love the film is possibly wasting your time, as there are many other films coming out to end the year in style. Having said that, I fell that, if you haven't seen this movie yet, then you must, and I mean MUST, put it at the top of your must-see list for the rest of 2013 depending on whether or not it's still playing near you. Chitwel Ejiofer gives quite possibly the performance of his career in this film, and Michael Fassbender overall makes a friggin' fantastic villain. The direction from Steve McQueen allows the audience to go deep into the harsh reality and grittiness of slavery back in the 1800's. This might not be one of the easiest movies to watch, but it is something that I could see history teachers showing their students in the not-so-distant suture. "12 Years a Slave" is one of the most emotional, gritty, and best movies I've seen all year, and I am so happy that it was worth the wait.
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