12 Years Worth Seeing

Today were going to take a look at the film adaption of the memoirs of Solomon Northup, 12 Years A Slave.  This film was a recent big winner of the Academy Awards and for good reason.  It was directed by up and coming British director Steve McQueen, and helmed by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Micheal Fassbender, and marvelous Lupita Nyong’o.

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McQueen’s take on the story is very faithful to the tone of the memoir.  This is slavery ladies and gentlemen.  No matter how hard Django Unchained tried:  it is not cool, it is not fashionable, it is harsh reality, and this film dares to go there.

I will admit, I’m really late to this party.  This movie technically came out about a year ago at Telluride Film Festival.  It’s major theatrical release was in Nov 2013 (Oscar Season).  In truth I have not seen alot of the major academy award players, and this one was the looking the most forward to see.  So better late than never, this film pulled me in and kept me tight until the final minute.

So a few things, I know alot of people cannot take this movie.  The reason being is because its very harsh, it does not hold back on the issue.  Suffering, hate, brutality, ignorance, and despair are all on full display here.  If your familiar with McQueen’s previous work, (Hunger and Shame), you expected this.  However, its on full display.  I get the sense both his previous films were just training courses for this.

While its historical flare is what most will remember this movie for, there is a bigger piece to this puzzle.  It shows us the story of slavery from a perspective I think many people aren’t aware of.  We are familiar with the Amistad’s of the world.  People stolen from their faraway home to become slaves.  Solomons story is one of injustice on a domestic scale.  He is a free US citizen.  He is conned, chained and transported on a ship, all within the confines the good old U. S. of A.  There is even a powerful moment when on his initial voyage from the north to south.  He is tasked with discarding a deceased slave overboard.  This is kind of a scene made famous by Amistad, but if you think about it for any amount of time.  This is likely a river, or right off the coast of the U.S.   Again, this story is close to home, probably too close for many.

McQueen had the talent in this film, and he really puts them to work.  The performances of Ejiofor and Fassbender are phenominal.  Ejiofor performance, honestly you just have to see it.  Normally, these kinds of films are exposition heavy.  What I mean is, you’d expect a few too many inner monologues of the protagonist, detailing what he is going thru.  His mental thought process, and to my surprise you get none of that.  The film has this silence about it, a silence filled by Ejiofor, and without a word.  You see every emotion, you know he is feeling regret, fear, hope.  These shots, they are borderline immaculate, if you weren’t a Steve McQueen fan before. I think you will be now.

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However, McQueen has alot of pieces to work with here.  Benedict Cumberbatch does what he normally does, act his ass off.  I didn’t pay close attention to the credits, but I was surprised to see Garrett Dillahunt.  His role is small but also convincing.  A quick moment, Garrett Dillahunt is so versatile.  He is certainly not the best hollywood has to offer, but you have to give him credit.  He is doing his damn best to not become a character actor, he takes on so many different roles and is fun to watch.  Brad Pitt shows up as well, and probably delivers one of the more important pieces of the film.  He plays the role of the guy who simply looks around and say “Hey, this isn’t right.. the law might say so .. but to God, people are people, we are all the same”.  He’s role was small, but none the less important.  Besides he is Brad Pitt….. not sure what I mean? Look at the Italian Poster for the film

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Dont worry.. Brad Pitt will save you

And finally, a breakout performance by Lupita Nyong’o.  She portrays a slave by the name of Patsey.  Most people are watching this film for Solomon.  His circumstances lead you to believe that he is having the worse experience.  He was free, he has a family, property.. respect… all taken from him.  Patsey role in the film is simple, to remind people.  Solomon had these things taken from him.  Patsey never had them at all.  She is the object of an obsessive masters desires.  She is tortured mentally and physically in ways that Solomon’s character can’t even comprehend til the end of the film.  Solomon is a tragic victim, but the bigger point is….. everyone was.

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Lupitia Nyong’o

This will is incredible, I hope its visceral look into American Slavery doesn’t put off the masses.  I can understand why some people can’t watch it, but it only be a disservice to yourself.  It’s a powerful piece that truly explores a dark period of our history.  Over time, we get desensitized to our own past.  However, films like this remind us.  I’m very happy the people involved in the film got rewarded for it.  The film pulled in numerous nominations from awards all over the globe.  It reeled in a Best Picture award for Steve McQueen.  He is the first African American to win Best Picture. It also won Lupita an award for Best Supporting Actress.  African American Actresses have been really doing there thing lately! Keep it up!

86th Annual Academy Awards - Show

 

 

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