Sunday, November 10 2013, 12:54 PM MST
Movie Review: 12 Years a Slave
4.5 out of 5 Stars
Director: Steve McQueen
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael K. Williams, Michael Fassbender
Genre: Biography, Drama
Recommended To: Those searching for an unflinching look at the inhumanity of slavery.
Synopsis: In 1841 Solomon Northup, a free black man living in New York, is abducted and forced into slavery.
Review: Since seeing director Steve McQueen's debut film Hunger, a movie about Irish republican Bobby Sands hunger strike, in 2008 I knew he was capable of great things. I wasn't a fan of his follow up, the sex-addiction drama Shame, but with 12 Years a Slave McQueen has made the sort of film I knew that he was capable of. Time will tell if it truly is the masterpiece that some have already labeled it, but for now it is impossible for me not to be extremely impressed by every aspect of the film. Chiwetel Ejiofor's performance, John Ridley's screenplay, Patricia Norris' costume design, Sean Bobbitt's cinematography and McQueen's direction will all garner numerous award nominations.
Based on Solomon Northrup's 1853 autobiography 12 Years a Slave is an interesting film in that it is able to depict the horrors of slavery and still manages to present a story that is ultimately uplifting. Some will consider the uplifting aspect to be the films Achilles heel because Northrup's story is the exception to the norm and does not represent the true inescapable horrors of slavery. While I agree with this criticism I disagree that this somehow makes the film less important or less important. Oskar Schindler wasn't a typical Nazi, he wasn't even Jewish, but through his story and Steven Spielberg's film many were able to begin to understand the suffering of the Jews during World War II. 12 Years a Slave is the continuation of a conversation that was started in cinema long ago. It wont be the final word or document about slavery in America, but it is one of the finest to date and will inevitably help to keep the conversation going.
-Ryan Michael Painter