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12 Years a Slave (2013) Movie Review

November 10, 2013

The history of slavery in this country is a grim one and a movie chronicling the lives of them is inevitably going to be hard to watch. Steve McQueen succeeded crafting “12 Years a Slave” because it is not easy to watch. It follows the true story of a free black man named Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Eliofor) living in New York who was sold into slavery and treated like any other slave and his fight for freedom. He moves between plantations owned by Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), and Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). He also has some short encounters with a mean overseer named Tibbits (Paul Danno) and a strange abolitionist (Brad Pitt).

This is a fantastic breakout role for Eliofor. The film relies on him to carry the day and he does so handily. Fassbender is menacing in one of his darkest roles to date. It was refreshing to see Cumberbatch in a role different than what he has been in lately. Though Danno and Pitt both have small roles to play, they do a fine job as well. Musically speaking Hans Zimmer provides a different score than one might expect to hear. The music ranges from some of his darkest material yet to some of his most minimalist and emotional. It fits the film nicely though at times I felt it could have used more music.

The film is expertly written, with a script that is refreshing in its wit and sophistication. The cinematography is solid though some shots are a bit too close and others too long. I appreciate long shots when done right but some lingered much longer than seemed necessary. “12 Years a Slave” is a powerful film worth experiencing for those who can watch without turning away. It is a necessary reminder about a past that is rarely portrayed as brutally as it was.
4.5/5

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From → Historical

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