Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Film Review: "12 Years a Slave" (2013).




" I will survive! I will not fall into despair! I will keep myself hardy until freedom is opportune!” Which is what 12 Years a Slave brings brutally to the screen. This British-American epic historical drama film is an adaptation of the 1853 memoir of the same name by Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free African-American who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1841 and sold into slavery. He worked on plantations in the state of Louisiana for twelve years before his release.

After meeting screenwriter John Ridley at a Creative Artists Agency screening of Hunger in 2008, director Steve McQueen got in touch with Ridley about his interest in making a film about "the slave era in America" with "a character that was not obvious in terms of their trade in slavery." Developing the idea back and forth, the two did not strike a chord until McQueen's wife found Solomon Northup's 1853 memoir Twelve Years a Slave. After being in development for some time, between which Brad Pitt's production company Plan B Entertainment backed the project, which helped get some financing from various film studios, the film was officially announced in August 2011 with McQueen to direct and Chiwetel Ejiofor to star as Northup. By early 2012, all the roles were cast, and filming was scheduled to begin at the end of June 2012. Principal photography took place in New Orleans, Louisiana, from June 27 to August 13, 2012, on a production budget of $20 million. The locations used were four historic antebellum plantations: Felicity, Magnolia, Bocage, and Destrehan. Of the four, Magnolia is nearest to the actual plantation where Northup was held.

Chiwetel Ejiofor stars in the leading role of Northup. Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong'o, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt and Alfre Woodard featured in supporting roles. The performances in this film were all amazing portrayed despite the film's hideous and grim subject matter. Fassbender, Cumberbatch, Dano, Giamatti, Paulson, Pitt and Woodard gave amazing performances even if their roles were minor and small. But much praise goes to the two actors, Ejiofor and Nyong'o. Due to McQueen's bold direction, Ejiofor has given the finest performance of his career. It is Ejiofor's extraordinary performance that holds the movie together, and that allows us to watch it without blinking. He plays Solomon with a powerful inner strength, yet he never soft-pedals the silent nightmare that is Solomon's daily existence. Certainly a performance that is Oscar-worthy. As well as Nyong'o's, who gave the film's breakthrough performance that may find her making her way to stardom.

McQeen’s 12 Years a Slave, like Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993), is about the ways good men try to escape realistically from an evil system. This film works better as narrative because it is brutally realistic portrait of slavery, and that it is about the search for a truth that, if found, will be a huge, deep wound to the millions of existing slaves and their descendants. As a result, the movie has the emotional charge of McQeen's earlier films, which moved me, one way or another. What is most valuable about the film is the way it provides faces and names for its African characters, whom the movies so often make into faceless victims.

Simon says 12 Years a Slave receives:


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