NOW PLAYING (limited release)
Directed by: Steve McQueen
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano,Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, Lupita Nyong’o, Paul Giamatti
Genre: Period, Drama, Nonfiction, Biographical
Warnings: Some gore, extreme violence, rape
WATCH THE TRAILER http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUQNjfhlREk
Quick synopsis: 12 Years a Slave is the film adaptation of the book by the same name that chronicles the true story of Solomon Northman, a free African American man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery.
First off let me say that this is one of the films that will be dominating the Oscars this season. The ensemble is nearly flawless in their portrayals, even though the indisputablestar of this film is definitely Ejiofor (Solomon Northman).
He has amazing ability and skill of truthful, multidimensional and fully developed acting making him a strong candidate for Best Actor. Michael Fassbender (Edwin Epps) may also be getting a nomination for Supporting Actor . It is clear Fassbender took the time to make sure his character wasn’t the stereotypical villain, sometimes allowing a small glimpse of vulnerability show through. Lupita Nyong’o (Patsey), who makes her feature film debut is Slave, could easily beat out the top actresses for a nomination next year with her very raw and honest performance. Even characters who graced the screen for a very small fraction of the film (Dano, Cumberbatch, Giamatti) managed to make long lasting impressions through great performances.
The editing and cinematography offer some truly beautiful shots. Clever use of letting the camera linger on a scene is a brilliant directorial choice made by Steve McQueen. McQueen plays with this a few more times during the movie, trading in scenes of raw violence for ones of subtle cruelty and inhumanity that make the viewer equally uncomfortable and sympathetic, but not to the point where it seems excessive. Discerning balance is a key to what makes his directing technique so great. I also loved the moments where hymns and folk songs being sung by the characters played over scenes or lingered into a transition. Very good examples of letting music carry a scene.
The only marks against this film are the strange pacing and the appearance of Brad Pitt (Bass). Though the film is supposed to take place over the span of twelve years, the confusing montages and rapid changes of pace makes it seem like two. The passage of time is often unclear unless mentioned extremely subtly.
Brad Pitt’s performance, though not bad, seemed luke warm in comparison with his many co stars. When he appears, it’s easy to guess his role in the story and you’re immediatelyuprooted from the plot. He seems very much how he is, Brad Pitt with an accent playing the “savior” character (it doesn’t help that he looks like the Jesus archetype which might of been done purposefully, though not effectively).
But these flaws are easily over looked when seeing the manytriumphs in filmmaking, writing, and acting this movie offers. It’s able to be very raw and real without losing the audience and offers up many faceted looks at slavery and themes within it (jealousy, greed, class issues, pride, “slave mentality”). You will be left in utter awe by the conclusion of the film in the best and worst of ways.