My name is Luke Duffy, I am an aspiring media journalist from Ireland and this is my website, Media Pancake. Media Pancake is a site devoted to my reviews and thoughts on the latest in film, television, and video games. If you enjoy my articles then please share them with your friends and stick around for my upcoming posts. Thanks.
Monday, 13 January 2014
Movie Review: 12 Years a Slave
’12 Years a Slave’ is one of
those movies that makes you stop and think, in particular it inspires thought
on the cruelty humanity has shown itself to be capable of in our barbaric past.
This story is a seriously powerful piece of cinema that is achieved with acute
direction and magnificent performances, it is a story about a truly abhorrent
period in human history: slavery. It is one of the finest films of the past
In 1841 free man Solomon
Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is deceived and sold into slavery by men posing as
friends. Over the next 12 years of his life Northup toils as a slave on
plantations across the state of Louisiana without hope of regaining his
freedom. Placed in the unenviable position of having his liberty stripped away,
Northup strives to regain his freedom no matter how long it should take.
There is an understandable
gravitas present in the filmmaking here, especially considering the subject
matter. Tackling the issue of slavery in cinema can only be successfully
accomplished when the director has a clear vision for the final creation as
Steve McQueen does in this instance whilst John Ridley’s exemplary script
delivers just the right amount of grit and humanity for the actors involved to
really delve into their roles. Indeed it is McQueen’s direction of the film
into a focused character study amid the harrowing backdrop of slavery that
serves the story best as opposed to a general documentation of that point in
Chiwetel Ejiofor skilfully leads an outstanding cast.
’12 Years a Slave’ is
ultimately driven forward by its staggeringly talented cast led by Chiwetel
Ejiofor who delivers a stunning breakthrough performance. Ejiofor is superbly
compelling throughout the film as he believably portrays the change that
Solomon Northup goes through during his traumatic journey to freedom. The role
of William Ford is a fleeting one but the work delivered by Benedict
Cumberbatch is very notable in spite of this. The character of Ford allows the
film to pose the quite difficult question of whether some of the slave owners
were simply men of their time as opposed to the out-and-out monsters their
actions have made of them, by humanising Ford and imbuing him with some
virtuous and moral characteristics Cumberbatch makes the man a believably torn
individual whose ownership of slaves is in direct contrast to the otherwise
principled disposition he possesses.
On the other hand there is a
very different type of slave owner, Edwin Epps, as played dynamically by the
endlessly talented Michael Fassbender. Fassbender’s performance as Epps is
nothing short of electric as he utterly commands the screen every time he
appears, for me he stole the entire film. The character of Edwin Epps is
indisputably one of the most captivating aspects of the film as a whole, Epps
is a fascinatingly conflicted individual with a venomous temper and a ferocious
capability for violence, he is a ruthless and complicated man who deems his
aggressive compulsions as God-given liberties in spite of the unquestionably
hellish result of these impulses. In a career of stunning performances this
just may be Michael Fassbender’s best to date. His incredible turn will
undoubtedly earn him a nomination for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award,
and I’m confident he’ll win it.
Michael Fassbender delivers a truly spellbinding performance.
The music of the film is
primarily provided through songs sung within the context of the film by
characters whilst Hans Zimmer’s infrequent but stirring score supplements the
remainder. Zimmer chooses the minimalist approach for his work here and it
really pays off, it is a score that swells perfectly to accompany some of the
more emotional instances in the film and provides a beautiful sound to match
the fantastically shot, bleakly gorgeous cinematography by Sean Bobbitt that
somehow manages to maintain the beauty of the American south despite the innate
ugliness of the vile acts occurring onscreen.
It is irrefutable that ’12
Years a Slave’ is an important film, just like ‘Schindler’s List’ before it, it
illustrates a dark time in humanity that cannot be forgotten about. With less
skill and reverence this may have gone down very differently but as it stands ’12
Years a Slave’ belongs in the same pantheon as the most lauded historical epics
of all time, it is powerful, moving, and most importantly, necessary.