Tuesday, November 5

Review: ' 12 Years a Slave' Has Made Me A Fan

I really wanted to hate this film. To my core I truly wanted to be angry that another film remembering how black people have suffered and bringing back those emotions of anger, suppression, inferiority, and whatever else depressing emotion that comes with this era in American history.
The Butler was the same way for me. I hated The Butler not because it was a bad film, but because of what the film illustrates: that black people had no control over what happened to them in this country. No matter what tactic black people tried, violence or peace, neither truly made a difference which is my take-away from The Butler, and it is a shame because I still feel that it is still this way - albeit not to the extent as it once was. We have made a lot of progress in this country in terms of racial discrimination however there is still so much more we can do to make it better. But I digress (sorry for my rant) I took all these feelings into the theater with me and sort of closed my mind to listening to what the film had to say. However, this film is so powerful that within fifteen minutes it had me emotionally connecting to the narrative of a man who lost everything he had and suffered horrors that no man should have to. Don’t get me wrong, I was still angry for all the reasons that I explained before, however it wasn’t the film I was angry about this time it was history. I felt angry for the Solomon Northup’s and the Patsey’s who had to suffer this American Horror. Twelve Years a Slave affected me in a way that The Butler could not. I’m not exactly sure where The Butler went wrong, perhaps a second viewing will bring me the answers. Twelve Years a Slave oozed with passion and heart which ultimately helped pull me out of my own way and listen to this exquisite film.

Technically, the film was excellent. Director Steve McQueen picked his emotional moments well and pacing was spot on to take the audience on the narrative rollercoaster ride that he built. This is McQueen’s vision and I hope he is happy with the final product because it is an amazing one and quite possibly a classic not only as a film but a film about Black history. It is strange that McQueen is British portraying a very American tale, but perhaps it worked to his advantage. Possibly only an outsider could tell such an unflinching literal adaptation not shying away from the truly gruesome moments but embracing them and forcing the audience to do so as well. Another thing that I must applaud Steve McQueen and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt on is their use of the Tom Hooper close up that was well overused in Les Miserables. McQueen uses this frame multiple times in the film and they were also my favorite and most powerful moments in the film. My favorite having to be when Solomon Northup begins singing ‘Roll Jordan Roll’ with the other slaves as they funeralize a fallen friend. It is such a powerful image that explains so much without saying anything at all.

Steve McQueen chose a great team to help him tell this story and it was headlined by a brilliant cast of actors. However, there are four standouts that I believe we will be seeing a lot of come awards time. Chiwetel Ejiofor has been around for a while now. He has had great performances in the past that he received a bit of attention for but no one can ignore the performance he gives in Twelve Years a Slave as Solomon Northup. It is not a flashy role where he has to be over the top like others in the cast but he does exactly what the film calls for. He grounds the film and allows the audience to go through this terror with him and empathize.  Michael Fassbender and Sarah Paulson are also standouts for me. They are perfectly cast as the villainous plantation owners Edwin and Mary Epps. Michael Fassbender has already shown what he is capable of as an actor, especially with McQueen at the helm (Shame), but this is still a surprising performance because he shows how much range he has; a true talent. However, Sarah Paulson hasn’t quite been able to show her chops on the big screen, but she has been proving herself as an actress to watch in her tv work (American Horror Story: Asylum, HBO’s Game Change). Her jealous woman scorned wife performance was mesmerizing and she makes the most of every moment she can in the film. I will not be surprised to hear her name called on Oscar nomination day. Lupita Nyong’o is the true revelation for me as Patsey. She broke my heart multiple times during the film, but there is one key scene that had me near tears and heartbreaking for her that will surely bring her Oscar gold. She has the ‘came out of nowhere’ effect that will give her the edge over her competition.

There is so much more I could say about how much I admire Twelve Years a Slave but I don’t want to ruin anything for anybody. Just go and see it; if it can make a believer out of me surely it can do the same for you.

Twelve Years a Slave is in limited release but will be opening nationwide soon. Here is the trailer below: 

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