Saturday, November 9, 2013

Review: 12 Years A Slave

                       '12 Years A Slave': A Masterful Odyssey Into The Abyss of Southern Hell

                    20 years ago, we were introduced to the masterpiece and classic that is Schindler's List which deals with one of the most brutal events in the history of mankind: The Holocaust, and it has really shown just how horrible humans can be. 12 Years A Slave does the same thing, only it deals with one of the most horrific times in American history: American slavery. Hopefully, this movie becomes a modern-day classic as this movie is the Schindler's List of slavery.

                   12 Years A Slave is based on a true story about a free man named Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who is captured and sold into slavery. The film then showcases his horrific ordeals and dealing with different slave owners, one of whom is an alcoholic psychopath named Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender).

                   What I Liked About It:
                  Where do I begin here? I'll start off with the acting. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives an astounding performance and dynamic performance as Solomon Northup, a slave who tries to stay alive and get back to his family just by working and putting his head down while avoiding helping his fellow slaves and losing his faith, but he eventually comes to his senses. Even when Ejiofor doesn't speak lines of dialogue, he really showcases the emotions he is going through and acts with his facial expressions. Now onto Michael Fassbender. He is phenomenal as the FILTHY, filthy human being that is Edwin Epps. I like how he doesn't just play Epps as a straight-up one-dimensional villain, but as a rather complex villain. One that is cunning and raging yet manipulated by his equally-cunning wife, played brilliantly by Sarah Paulson. Speaking of Paulson, talk about an actress doing a complete 180 from playing a slightly nicer character in American Horror Story to a devilish ice queen in this. I look forward to more from this actress and I see her as becoming one of the best character actresses in the business. Benedict Cumberbatch is also astounding as William Ford, Northup's first owner who is more humane than Epps because even though is a slave owner, he doesn't participate in the beating or abuse of his slaves. Brad Pitt is also in this movie for a brief appearance and he certainly makes the most of the limited screen time he has, along with Paul Giamatti, who also has a small role. But one actress who I would also like to talk about is newcomer Lupita Nyong'o, who plays a slave named Patsey. I am amazed that this is her first film role and yet she gives such a powerful performance. She has such a luminous presence on screen and whether she is in peril or not, you just can't help but weep for her. I cross my fingers that she gets an Oscar nomination for her performance, along with other members of the cast.

                  Another thing that I really liked was the direction from Steve McQueen. I like how he uses the long tracking shot technique to not cut away from the sheer horror that takes place on screen. For example, there is one big whipping scene that didn't cut away and I covered my face and started crying because I was mortified by what I witnessed. Also, there is one scene where Edwin is chasing Solomon with a knife which I found to be pretty intense because you can sense the fear that Solomon is going trough. Plus, there is another scene done in a long take that sort of had me in tears where Solomon is with his fellow slaves and his burying a slave that just passed and the other slaves start clapping and singing a song and Solomon eventually joins in. This is McQueen's third feature film, and after watching this, I want to see his other two films, Hunger and Shame. I also liked how even though the film is based on a true story and real-life people, writer John Ridley makes real complex characters out of the slave owners. William Ford is the more humane slave owner yet when he sees evil stuff being done and has the opportunity to do something good, he cowardly shies away. Edwin Epps is much more sadistic, raging, and is a much dirtier human being. Unlike Ford, Epps beats and abuses his slaves yet has tender feelings for Patsey. But Epps' wife, who is equally as cruel as Edwin, has much more of a stillness to her and is more of a subtle villain. She doesn't act as raging as her husband, but still gives off waves of ice and is practically the devil on her husband's shoulders.

                   What I Didn't Like About It:

                 Overall, 12 Years A Slave is an intensely powerful and emotionally gripping drama about slavery that will leave its mark on you long after it is over. I would say that everyone should go see this movie because if you watch it, you will see just how horrible human beings can be and maybe try to not be as horrible and better yourself once it's over. It is at times brutal to watch, but it's very honest. It's not necessarily entertaining, but it's pure art.

Rating: 5/5