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12 Years A Slave – Review


Release Date: 10th January 2014
Director: Steve McQueen
Writer: John Ridley – Soloman Northup
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor - Michael K. Williams - Michael Fassbender - Benedict Cumberbatch - Lupita Nyong’o - Brad Pitt - Paul Giamatti - Paul Dano - Sarah Paulson



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Posted February 4, 2014 by

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12 Years A Slave Review:

“I don’t want to survive, I want to live”

Steve McQueen’s latest masterpiece, 12 Years a Slave is compelling, melancholy and touching.  Not everyone will be able to stomach this film in its entirety, but if you can stick through the harrowing scenes and make it to the end, you will fully appreciate this film. 12 Years a Slave is based on the real story of the chilling tale of Soloman Northup, a free black man happily residing in New York with his family, only to get abducted and sold back into slavery. Certainly sticking with McQueen’s theme of producing raw, dark and a film the exposes everything for what it really is – and here we see exactly act. There aren’t many films about slavery and after Taranto’s comedy fuelled Django Unchained we got a taste of what the subject is but 12 Years a Slave completely strips slavery down to its bare bones.

Instantly from the opening scene the sombre mood hits you right in the face and we quickly realise that there is no happiness or joy for these guys. Chiwetel Ejiofor is perfect as Soloman Northup and delivers the best performance of his career, full of emotion and finally shows us what he is capable of. It is really hard not to hate almost everyone on screen, even if they do have very little screen time despite the films running time of 134 minutes. This is a living hell, with relentless torture, lynching and obeying every word of your master – they soon learn that if you keep your mouth shut you will narrowly avoid a lashing.

The fact there are flash backs showing that it wasn’t always that bad for Soloman makes everything we see on screen all the more powerful. We physically see him break on screen, but despite people asking him to kill them because they cannot go on any longer, Soloman still clings onto that little bit of hope that he was once a free man. The terribly insensitive owner of this plantation is played brilliantly by Michael Fassbender, who brings every form of emotion to his performance creating a man we want to see get his. Surprise performances from Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson and Paul Dano are all essential in creating this truly compelling narrative. Apart from Chiwetel Ejiofor, new comer Lupita Nyong’o steals the show when dealing with constant abuse thrown to her left, right and centre.

If there was something that stood out negatively it would have to be the long lingering shoots that hover ultra close-up on Ejiofar upset face. Yes, this created great amounts of tension and exaggerated the touching moments somewhat, but perhaps giving a little more screen time to other actors would have made the running time feel slightly shorter. By the by, 12 Years a Slave will blow you away. Just be prepared for some pretty heavy scenes that expose just how horrendous the time period was for someone who wasn’t white.

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Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 20.05.17

Gloria Daniels-Moss
Freelance Contributor


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