12 Years a Slave
In sum, I have to second the opinion of the entire blogosphere and film press: this movie is absolutely fantastic and should be on the watchlist of every movie-goer. And this recommendation comes from a non-American who is not particularly fond of these types of moves. So go and watch it ... but be ready for a heavy hit.
Acting
Directing
Cinematography
Script
Timeless
The Good
  • Shocking, mortifying and gruesome (in a "good" way)
  • A very sad part of american history in perfect depiction
  • Movie is filled with Oscar performances
The Bad
  • Sometimes the message is delivered a "too" graphic way (but understandably so)
  • At times the movie could be faster (but the slow pace has a purpose)
4.6Overall Score

Oscar week is continuing for Erwin and he is barely getting his reviews done…to be quite honest, I have been dragging to watch this movie for the longest time. For some reason I never found neither excitement (which is probably the wrong word) nor a lot of interest for movies dealing with slavery. I can probably attribute this to me not being American and thus not being able to associate this with the heritage of “my country”. In retrospect however, I am grateful that I dragged myself to the theater for this magnificent piece of cinema.

By watching the trailer and probably only by reading the name of the movie, the premise is quite clear. The free black man Solomon Northup who is living a happy life in slave-free upstate New York is abducted and has to live the life of as a slave in the southern states. And that is exactly as much as I knew before going to watch this movie …

12 Years A SlaveDirector Steve McQueen (whose previous work I have yet to see) sets the right tone from the start of this two hour journey through the everyday horror of slavery. As stated above I generally avoid these types of movies (yes, I have not seen THE slave movie Amistad yet) but I believe that this is the first movie which focuses on slavery fully from the slave’s perspective. In other movies of this genre the focus often was on the topic of slavery in conjunction with the Civil War (e.g. Lincoln) or part of the premise but as a subset of a different plot (e.g. Django Unchained). I am emphasizing this because that very focus made it even harder and more brutal to digest this film. Throughout the entire two hours, I kept thinking that this was in fact everyday life just 170 years ago. Black people were not treated as humans in any kind but as a good for trade with no human rights whatsoever. Their entire fate was dependent on the good- or (in some cases) “badwill” of their slave master. Torture, rape and utmost humiliation was part of every black person’s destiny in this masterful yet mortifying depiction with little to no hope for better times. Not that all this is already bad enough, the horror is multiplied by the fact that the protagonist Solomon is actually a free black man. With this knowledge in mind, the movie plays with the viewers and Solomon’s hope that the horror might take an end. But every time we see some good and feel some level of “joy”, the movie takes the hope away in a heartbeat and makes things even worse. It has been a long time since I was seriously disturbed and had to actually cringe during a movie. But there are certain scenes (in particular one scene) which make you feel sad, angry and mortified.

The visual depiction of the pain, the day-to-day brutality and the hopelessness is a great achievement of director Steve McQueen and I absolutely salute him for that. He also choose an absolute excellent acting staff for each and every character. Of course the performance of Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Norhtup is absolutely fantastic and he will be giving Leo a run for his money on his conquest for finally winning an Academy Award. Especially considering Ejiofor being more of a Hollywood lightweight his acting is even more commendable. Aside from the main character, the performance of Lupita Nyong’o (Patsy) had an extremely big impact on me. Her character in the movie is the utmost tragic one and actually shows how little of a “land of opportunity” America really was (I won’t say why because that would spoil too much).

In sum, I have to second the opinion of the entire blogosphere and film press: this movie is absolutely fantastic and should be on the watchlist of every movie-goer. And this recommendation comes from a non-American who is not particularly fond of these types of moves. So go and watch it … but be ready for a heavy hit.

Info

twelve_years_a_slave_xlg

  • Running time: 117 min
  • Genre: Drama
  • Year: 2013

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