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12 Years A Slave
Genre Drama
 
Review:

Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, was kidnapped and sold into slavery in antebellum United states in 1841. An enticing job offer led to his abduction after his prospective employers drugged him and sold him as a slave. 12 Years A Slave is an account of his emotional and physical turmoil at the mercy of plantation owners.

Steve McQueen is one of Hollywood's most exciting directors on the back of Hunger, Shame and now 12 Years A Slave. Each of his films are contentious, beautifully shot and brought to life by strong performances and inspired direction. He may share a name with the steely blue-eyed hero of The Great Escape, but is turning heads with his pristine and powerful collection of films.

12 Years A Slave is a broader work for McQueen, a period piece spanning more years with a bigger cast. He's more than up to the task, capturing the life and times of antebellum United States, leveraging a stellar cast to great effect. Solomon Northup's story comes in a year when former SA President Nelson Mandela's life story was adapted in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and the U.S. civil rights movement was relayed through the eyes of Cecil Gaines in The Butler.

The recurring thematic concept of master and slave in today's world, must have been the inspiration for these films, a trend expressed in last year's Django Unchained and Cloud Atlas. While Mandela's biopic has been a work in progress for ages, Barack Obama's election to President must have added impetus to the power of the people, making the universal message of triumph over adversity a powerful and timely one.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is an underrated acting talent, whose series of solid supporting roles in films like Talk to Me, Endgame, American Gangster, 2012 and Salt have led him to what is undoubtedly a career best performance in 12 Years A Slave. The actor's emotionally restrained performance has been further nurtured by McQueen, giving him the screen time to truly showcase his abilities.

He's supported by a stellar cast featuring some of today's most critically acclaimed actors in Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti and Brad Pitt. Fassbender's reliably strong performance is a catalyst to Ejiofor, making him fight for scenes as the two lock horns from time-to-time.

Cumberbatch echoes his small part in Amazing Grace, tackling a Southern accent and a fence-sitting character. While Pitt's steady and enlightened performance seems almost political as Giamatti throws his weight behind a despicable slave trader.

It's McQueen's direction that gives this powerful film it's edge. His unconventional extended shots bring gravity to the production and soak up every bit of gravy. The director's able to deliver a more introspective moment that would ordinarily get lost in the process. It adds that extra bit of tension, hanging those last few seconds leaves those moments etched in our psyches with a weighty soundtrack driving 12 Years A Slave up another peg.

12 Years A Slave is a gut-wrenchingly powerful biographical drama about injustice against humanity and hope in the most dire of situations. McQueen's direction conjures up a hauntingly beautiful portrait of the times and the characters, who are brought to life by a first-class cast and excellent performances. Immerse yourself in Solomon Northup's world and you will uncover a full spectrum of humanity in all it's unabashed ugliness and unfettered determination.

The bottom line: Powerful


 

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