Director: Steve McQueen
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt
Duration: 134 mins
Release Date: 30 January, 2014
The New Daily says:
Forget the blackly humorous shtick of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, director Steve McQueen’s majestic 12 Years A Slave is the real deal, in more ways than one. Adapted by John Ridley from the harrowing memoir of Solomon Northrop, a middle class black man living freely in upstate New York before being abducted and sold into the horrifying nightmare of slavery in the Deep South, it’s a cinematic triumph that stares long and hard into the dark heart of man.
McQueen pulls no punches, with the beautiful cinematography of Sean Bobbitt starkly contrasted with horrifying scenes of torture and the squalor of the slaves’ lives. Chiwetel Ejiofor is magnetic in the lead role, capturing Northrop’s stoic refusal to bend under excruciating brutality, led by Michael Fassbender’s monstrous slave trader.
In particular, an agonising whipping scene involving another slave, Patsey, in a powerhouse turn by newcomer Lupita Nyong’o that steals the shows and, if there’s any justice in the world, should secure her the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, is the film’s most compelling scene, as difficult as it is to endure. Benedict Cumberbatch also appears as a slightly less evil slaver, adding complex layers to what is truly an important film.
The only niggle is a somewhat awkward late introduction of Brad Pitt, one of the film’s producers, as an abolitionist, that feels like it pulls the audience out of the world of this deeply intense affair.
Rotten Tomatoes says: 97% – “It’s far from comfortable viewing, but 12 Years a Slave‘s unflinchingly brutal look at American slavery is also brilliant – and quite possibly essential – cinema.
The Guardian says: “12 Years a Slave is not an easy watch and nor should it be. But with the exception of a somewhat distracting third-act cameo by co-producer Brad Pitt, it is pitched pretty near perfectly in terms of sheer narrative craftsmanship. This is an important story, told with passion, conviction and grace. See it now.”
Margaret and David say: David – “This is an extraordinary film…Four and a half stars.” Margaret – “What I felt about it was that I am watching an artist at work in this film. The shots he gets, the beauty, the ugliness, the way he holds onto shots…I think he’s really one of the most talented directors working today. Four and a half stars.”
See it: Before the Oscars in March. This movie is going to clean up and you will want to cheer for it.