A Quick Review of ’12 Years A Slave’

12 Years A Slave (Fox Searchlight)

What’s new MMT family?  Well, last week I screened the critically acclaimed Steve McQueen directed vehicle 12 Years A Slave, and I agree completely that the hype is well deserved. Because the film has been the center of much discussion throughout the past year, toured the festival circuit while receiving significant amounts of praise, and officially opened in limited release two weeks prior, there is very little that has not been said/written about this ‘based on a true story’ film. Nevertheless, here are a few of my thoughts regarding it and the passionate portrayals displayed.

Let me start by saying that in my review of Django Unchained last year, I’d mentioned that “my biggest problem with Django is slavery is too heavy a topic for me to view intertwined with fantasy.” The lack of previous major motion pictures regarding the subject, from an African-American point of view, made the movie extremely hard for me to digest.  The beauty of 12 Years A Slave is that the script is adapted from a narrative (same title) written by Solomon Northup, who is portrayed in the film by the magnificently dynamic Chiwetel Ejiofor.  For me, it is also the reason this film was so gripping.  The audience watches as Northup, a free man, is deceived, drugged, abducted and sold into a life of horrendous abuse and torment.  I haven’t read the actual book 12 Years A Slave, but several writers who’ve read, and commented about the film, have shared this movie follows it pretty closely.

With respect to all the reviews posted, I don’t even know if there is anything left to remark on regarding Ejiofor’s performance.  But I will simply say this: his performance is expressively raw and emotively brilliant.  I don’t even want to attempt to imagine where he must have drawn from for this role, but whatever he did worked.  There is no doubt in my mind that Chiwetel Ejiofor will be lauded with Best Actor nominations come award season; and the same goes for Steve McQueen who will certainly be in the running for Best Director.

The performance that I pray isn’t overlooked come award season was given by Kenyan actress/filmmaker Lupita Nyong’o, who plays a slave named Patsey.  Nyong’o executes a range of emotions with precision as the audience watches Patsey evolve from innocently carving dolls out of corn husks (early on in film) to agonizingly receiving one of the worst lashings I’ve ever seen portrayed on-screen big or small. Again, I cannot imagine from where she also must have drawn energy/influence, but it was no pleasant place to say the least. Correspondingly, Michael Fassbender who portrays the cruel slave owner Edwin Epps, had no easy feat in portraying a malevolent, abusive and sexually violent character, yet he definitely brought his A game to this film.

I am extremely excited to think what could happen early next year with award season.  If I had my way, we would see 1) Best Director nods for Ryan Coogler, Lee Daniels, and Steve McQueen, 2) Best Actor nods for Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Forest Whitaker, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, 3) Best Actress nods for Octavia Spencer and Lupita Nyong’o and 4) Best Picture nods for 42, Fruitvale Station, Lee Daniels’ The Butler and 12 Years A Slave.  I reserve the right to add Idris Elba with his performance of Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom once I’ve been able to view!

You can click on the film titles in the above paragraph to read previous posts/reviews about those films respectively, and get insight into why I chose the directors, actors and actresses listed. You can also get additional info and showtimes in your area for 12 Years A Slave by clicking here. The movie opened in limited release on October 18 and in additional theaters, including the Philadelphia area, last Friday, October 25.  It will continue to open nationwide through November 1.

Make sure you stop back and share your thoughts about the film.  Very curious to read what you think about this one!

Until next thought family, Thomasena

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