the wonderful world of veena.

07 November 2013

movie review: 12 years a slave.

I had heard great things about 12 Years a Slave, and I wanted to make sure to see it before I left for India, so I saw it this afternoon at the Paradiso. It was well worth the visit.

12 Years... is the story of Solomon Northup, a free black man living in New York state with his wife and two children. While they are away, Solomon is duped into traveling to Washington, DC, where he is abducted and held as prisoner until he is transferred south and sold as a slave. How he adapts to the slave life, how he interacts with his masters and his fellow slaves, and how he continues to hope that one day he will be freed and reunited with his family enfolds over the course of the two-hour movie.

First and foremost, I thought the casting was perfect. Chiwetel Ejiofor was great at Solomon, and all those articles you've been seeing about the expressiveness of his face are all true. He doesn't say a word for the first 7 or so minutes of the film, but you can read every emotion that he's feeling on his face. I had only previously seen him in Love Actually, but I had heard good things about him in other movies, and I'm glad I got to see him in a different role.

Michael Fassbender was also excellent. I had actually never seen him in anything before, and he was great in his role as Edwin Epps, Solomon's mean-spirited master. Watching his character devolve in the second half of the movie was fascinating - and terrible - to watch.

And Lupita Nyong'o. She was spectacular. She doesn't have many lines, but she gives a powerful performance as Patsey, one of Solomon's fellow slaves. I don't think that role could have been cast any better.

It's always difficult to say you like a movie about slavery, because the subject itself is so difficult and is shrouded in so much controversy and debate. I thought Steve McQueen, the director, did a great job of trying to show the life of a slave without sensationalizing it, which is not an easy feat. It's a very moving, very emotional movie that relies heavily on the ability of the actors to portray their feelings with minimal speaking. It had me in tears in a few parts, and I cannot remember the last time I cried in the cinema.

On a separate note, it was also interesting to watch this movie just a few days after having watched Gone With the Wind on Tuesday night. It was on TCM as part of Vivien Leigh's 100th birthday celebration, so obviously my mother and I stayed up to watch it. I hadn't seen it in probably 10 years, and I certainly had a different perspective on it that I had watching it as a child. And seeing these two movies nearly back-to-back certainly made for an interesting viewing experience.

The bottom line is this: if you've not yet seen 12 Years a Slave, make some time this weekend to go. It's one of those must-see movies that are becoming more and more rare these days, and it's definitely worth a trip to the cinema.

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