Here I am again folks, to deliver a film-addict review special. One of my film-addict colleagues, Landon Burris, gave this film the highest rating possible(5/5) and after seeing it, I find it hard to disagree with him. 12 Years a Slave isn’t just a movie. It’s an experience and one that will haunt your thoughts after you leave the theater. Any film about slavery is powerful, but director Steve McQueen(remember this brave filmmaker’s name) puts a fresh spin on the tragic period.
PLOT-Based on a true story, this is the story of a free black man named Solomon Northup living in New York with his family and making a fine living who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Stripped of his identity as well as his soul, Northup is forced into a life he never saw coming and the rest is tragic history.
Buffa’s Take-This film is as powerful as it gets and will command attention at the Oscars. I went in with a clear head and loving life as we know it, but when I left the film I felt like holding onto what I have a little tighter. This story will rock your senses and remind you what is sacred, privileged and not a given in this world. What if everything you had was suddenly taken from you based on the color of your skin and your placing in society? McQueen and star Chiwetel Ejiofor team up for this masterpiece and don’t hold any punches when it comes to telling the full story of Northup.
A long time brilliant character actor and occasional leading man, British wonder Ejiofor is outstanding as Northup and gives a performance that asks for nothing in return and doesn’t attempt to manipulate your emotions. It’s just a plain old great piece of work and a convincing portrayal of an ordinary good man trapped in hell on earth. Slowly, the strong minded Northup comes undone and Ejiofor doesn’t spare you anything with his performance. Fighting back tears, hiding his identity through a rugged tyranny overseen by Edwin Epps(the never better Michael Fassbender, holding the hot hand right now) and simply surviving. Ejiofor takes you for this ride and doesn’t let you go, even when he isn’t in the scene. His soulful performance looms over the entire film.
Fassbender, who blew my mind in McQueen’s previous film Shame, is also worthy of Oscar attention as Epps, the pure evil slave owner who tests our leading man in every possible way. The only thing more hated back then than a black human being was a smart brave black human being and the collision of minds of Northup and Epps is mesmerizing. Fassbender is ridiculously versatile and shows off his menace here. For a man who played a sex addict, a lawyer, a young Magneto and now this, The Irish-German bred actor is on the heels of Hollywood domination. In order to play that role right, Fassbender has to reach down to a depth that most actors simply don’t own. Both actors are more than Oscar worthy. They are memorable and transcendent.
The rest of the supporting cast makes great use of their minimal screen time. The white hot British actor Benedict Cumberbatch(Star Trek Into Darkness, BBC’s Sherlock Holmes) carries an aura of broken nobility in his scenes as a slave owner who takes a liking to Solomon. Paul Giamatti and Paul Dano redefine blunt sinister behavior, with Giamatti displaying a special disdain in a role lasting no more than 5 minutes. Lupita Nyon’g is sensational as a fellow slave who connects with Solomon. Sarah Paulson is the feminine batch of evil that soaks up a part of every scene she is in. Brad Pitt, who co-produced the film, has two scenes that resonate due to the restraint he brings to his role. The cast is marvelous and easily the best ensemble of the year.
McQueen doesn’t overpower you narrative and lets the simplicity of Northup’s torturous situation play out slowly. The man is an artist at the grave human details of the hard life and puts his camera to fine use here. The cinematography is heart wrenching. Hans Zimmer’s score is eloquent and slow moving instead of overbearing. Everything works so well in this film that it seems like a documentary style history lesson.
After you watch this film, you will leave the theater and appreciate the free air you breathe. 12 Years A Slave reminds you what slavery did to millions and how evil of a head it grew during its reign. Freedom is the greatest thing in this world and you will be hard pressed to find another film that deals with the subject better. 12 Years A Slave isn’t just one of the best films of the year. It’s one of the best films I have seen in the last 10 years. It demands your attention.
Thanks for reading and come back next time for the Dose of Buffa Film-Addict Review special!