Tuesday, 18 February 2014

12 Years A Slave (2013)


Solomon Northup: I will not fall into despair till freedom is opportune!

There are some films you just know that they will be landmarks in film history. '12 Years A Slave' is one of them. I herby herald this film as the Best Film of the Year, 2014. 

'12 Years A Slave' is based on an incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty - personified by a malevolent slave owner (portrayed by Michael Fassbender), as well as unexpected kindnesses - Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. (source: www.imdb.com)

It has been known (to me - and the rest of the film world) that Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame) is a superb director, who never ceases to amaze and leave his audience engrossed in the stories he tells. This time around, he chose a very difficult journey to embark on; slavery. This specific subject has been dealt with in films many times, but what distinguishes it among so many others it's its brutal honesty of it. The way McQueen treats the issue of total human wretchedness comes through his established resolution that he will not beautify or scratch the edges of the negro slavery, but rather serve as cold and as harsh as it was. 

In collaboration with his extraordinary cinematographer, Sean Bobbit, he once more manages to transmit the raw emotional unstability which his characters are journeying through. This is wonderfully and skillfully executed by the roughness of the film's photography; those extenuous long shots that are filled with complete silence and you're left with the actor's facial expressions to convey emotions, those blistering shots of sheer brutality and that hopelessness you feel out there in the sizzling fields of the gathering crop. 

It's become somewhat of a director's trademark those long steady shots that has the actors either having an on-going dialogue for more than 5 minutes long or simply by letting the actor release emotional energy on screen through facial expressions, a very theatrical technique as well which seems to be working brilliantly for McQueen as he chooses to let the camera follow the unravelling drama without flinching with editing cutaways. Personally, I believe that this is an stylized directorial achievement since it keeps the suspense elevated without losing the focus on the characters' narrative. 

Coming to all of that is an astounding string of thespians - to merely brand them "actors" seems rather pettish - who not only offer us the unique oppoprtunity to glimpse superb acting at its finest but also refuse to let the audience leave from the filml theatre without tearing up or the very least being left silent stunned. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Love Actually, American Gangster, Melinda and Melinda, Children of Men) is what acting is really about; moving, gut-wrencing, all consuming, with an unbelievable strength to let his charact grow and sustain all the brewing emotions of injustice, is a most excellent example of an actor mesmerizing it's audience for all the right reasons his director called him for: marvel on the big screen! Amongst the major contenders for a Best Actor award this year is also Ejiofor, whom I whole-heartedly wish that he receives this award (although I'm greatly torned between him and McConaughey). 

To this dedicated and engrossing cast come a great deal of actors but to name a few, the ever so entangling Michael Fassbender, who is something more of an acting giant, he's an explosive embodiment of how to methodically and carefully execute an actor's psyche on screen. Similarly, actors such as Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson and last but not at all least, Lupita Nyong'o, who gave an excruciatingly painful but equally so brilliant performance throughout

Worthy to also mention the gloriousness of the musical score, written by none other than the ever so great Hans Zimmer, who seems to have had some freedoms to create a brutally invented score that not only tie up really nice with the cinematography but also make sure they extract the right level of emotion at the right time in the film. 

McQueen raises once more the issue of equal rights, that every human life is worth the same and the on-going struggle of people in slavery and their fight for freedom. In watching him the other day receiving his 1st Bafta Award for Best Film of the Year, McQueen carefuly pointed out that "today, in 2014, there are 21million people into slavery and that his hope is that in 150 years time there won't be the need from another filmmaker to make a film about slavery". On that point, I commend and applaud this film for its ability to speak to the public about an issue every so relevant and fragile as the individual's freedom.

Personally this film oughtta win the  Academy Award for Best Picture as it is exatly the reason why cinema still exists; to profit - and by profit I mostly mean to educate - and delight - and by delight I mean offer intellectual entertainment or in more plain words offer food for thought. In this case McQueen offered us a  whole lotta banquet to feast and act on. Let's respect that.


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