12 Years a Slave


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In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.

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Director: Steve McQueen

Writer[s]: John Ridley [screenplay], Solomon Northup [original work]

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’oBenedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Brad PittMichael K. WilliamsPaul Giamatti

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Steve McQueen is a director of unparalleled ability. 12 Years a Slave and 2011’s Shame are two dramas that literally couldn’t be any better. His ability, vision, and artistry was clearly no fluke in Shame, for he has even surpassed that film with this one that tackles our world’s worst ever crime: slavery.

With a topic like slavery, you can’t beat around the bush or sugar coat it in any way, shape, or form if you want a true, real interpretation. McQueen has never been one to shy away from true, real story telling [Shame was NC-17 for nudity and sex]. He again uses nudity not as a ploy or gimmick, but because it’s real. He shows people getting whipped, as in you actually see the whip scraping the flesh off of people’s backs [although it is obviously CGI]. McQueen cuts no corners and doesn’t hold back from showing you the actuality of slavery. He has such a knack for creating intensity and emotion with his use of long takes and minimal editing, and this also really helps the actors shine. And shine they did.

It is such a privilege and treat to see Chiwetel Ejiofor perform. I first saw him in 2001’s Dirty Pretty and I was floored. I don’t know how I’ve never seen him in anything else, or why I never hear his name along with the other “best actors” of this time. There is no doubt that he is nominated for best actor at every award ceremony this year, and I am willing to bet he wins a good chunk of them. A masterful performance. Fassbender, McQueen’s go-to-guy, was great as well, and only seems to be getting better.

What I appreciated about the film was that it was an actual story of a man’s whole experience with slavery and eventual freedom. This is not a film made to show you how bad slavery is, because we all know that truth [hopefully]. No; this is the story of one incredible man and his incredible journey.

I really don’t know what else to say. This clearly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I honestly don’t know how this film gets any better, or how any other film this year is better.

My Rating

4/4 – 12 Years a Slave is, simply put, a marvel of film-making. Incredible acting, impeccable direction, and a real, horrifying, stunning, remarkable story.

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