12 Years A Slave (2013) – Film Review

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The season was upon us. The season of drama, emotional, weighty films. Where explosions take a back seat and director’s attempted to pull tears out of your eyes screaming “This is the sad bit! Cry now!”. Few films manage to successfully carry their sorrowful story well enough so the viewer believes they are experiencing their own emotion brought on by their own personal connection with the film. The difference between forced emotion and willing emotion is an art form upon which the actors and director hold the sculpting tools.

The tale of Solomon Northup, already documented by himself in his book ‘Twelve Years A Slave’, is a cruel fated story. Chiwetel Ejiofor perfectly absorbs the life of Northup and delivers an incredible performance in what will be his first major film role in a long and prosperous career. He is partnered by the ever brilliant Michael Fassbender who portrays one of the many owners that Northup visits among his travels. Fassbender‘s ability to switch between emotions and character traits is a skill he shares with Ejiofor and the two combine in a great display on screen. The likes of Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Paul Dano (who may soon be becoming typecast as ‘that slightly strange possibly racist southerner’) share little screen time than their names and reputations may inherently deserve yet for their part they create a stable foundation on which Ejiofor‘s story is carried, the former two giving showing the white male (even the slave owners) aren’t so evil as people may believe. That character’s live weren’t so binary.

Director Steve McQueen (no not that one) has  a skill for drama. His previous two feature films ‘Hunger’ and ‘Shame’ were both heavy films that too received a huge share of accolades. Both of which starred Fassbender. The adaptation of ‘Twelve Years A Slave’ was not an easy one. The book is incredibly short given the time frame of the story, only focussing on the parts needed and a story technique that more writer’s should adhere to, fiction or not. However despite the books lack of length, filling three hours of torment whilst keeping the viewer gripped is a task many directors and film makers often struggle with. In ’12 Years A Slave’ however the cruel, unforgiving life of a slave is one that is encapsulated perfectly. For a true story to be filled with such light and darkness is unimaginable and though the era of slavery is a point in human history that is one most shameful, ‘12 Years A Slave’ captures story of one slave’s fight for survival, unwillingness to conform, and desire for change.

The awards and recognition the film gains are deserved. The topic is not an easy one, nor one that is enjoyed. But the film has to be seen for a piece of art and for a realistic story. Not for it’s entertainment value. It’ll be a film remembered for a long time and a story that’s hard to forget.

Verdict – 5/5

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