Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Review: 12 Years A Slave

World of Blackout Film Review

12 Years A Slave Poster

12 Years A Slave
Cert: 15 / 134 mins / Dir. Steve McQueen
WoB Rating: 7/7

Is January the 7th too early to call Film Of The Year? It seems hasty, I know, but Steve McQueen's presentation of the tale of Solomon Northup is a fucking masterpiece. McQueen allows the tale to unravel at its own pace, and never resorts to emotional button-pushing or hyperbole, letting the story paint its own picture long after you've finished watching. Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt's camera often lingers long past the point of being comfortable, but never exploitatively, and never without reason. There are few artists who could find beauty in the New Orleans landscape in the midst of a story of hateful oppression, but Bobbitt manages to find and integrate it perfectly. The production design is equally fantastic, and has an effortless authenticity, especially in the farmland segments.

The film's sound-design and score work hand-in-hand, particularly in the first act, and Hans Zimmer's work is understated to perfection, avoiding the trap of many a movie where the soundtrack tells you what to think and how to feel. While there's never any doubt over what's Good and Bad in 12 Years, the film respects its audience enough paint some grey areas to keep them engaged.

For the most part, the supporting performances in the film are outstanding (particularly given how little screentime some of the A-listers are given). From time to time the dialogue feels a little stiff, with the formal language of the mid 1800's not quite flowing as smoothly as you think it perhaps should, but it's barely noticeable in the grand scheme of things. Oh, and huge props to the makeup/effects department, too. Ouch.

But the lion's share of the praise really has to go to Chiwetel Ejiofor for his portrayal of Solomon. Disbelieving, angry, resigned, determined and never losing faith, there's a very restrained commitment about his performance which is cinematic magnetism. Even the final scene is underplayed in a way like no other film I've seen. Ejiofor's isn't a performance which screams 'give me the Oscar', yet it's entirely deserving (as is the entire production) of the many awards it will receive.

Go and watch this film.

Is the trailer representative of the film?
Fairly, but the film's less spoon-feeding than the trailer would suggest.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
I did.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
It'll be powerful wherever you watch it, but the sooner the better, so cinema.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I will, a bit.

Will I watch it again?
Yes, but not right away; while I wasn't emotionally drained as such, it's not the kind of ride you want to get straight back on.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
There isn't.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
Did you notice the one brief scene where Fassbender let his accent slip? I did. Then again, I was looking for it. It's Fassbender, after all. Fair play to the guy, he did bloody well in this.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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