Sunday, 26 January 2014


I went to go and see 12 Years a Slave almost a week ago, but I've only decided to review the film now, after I've had time to form a proper opinion. I would begin this review as I usually would, stating that it is spoiler free. However, as this film is based on true events, there aren't really spoilers as such. With that being said, I won't ruin the ending of the film just in case. 

I would say that this film is, without a doubt, one of the most disturbing films I have ever watched. Don't be put off by that statement - the film is extraordinary and moving, but be prepared to wince at the very least at certain parts of the film. As the title suggest, the premise of the film focuses on slavery in the southern states of the USA. Taken from IMDB, here is a short synopsis of the film...
Based on an incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender), as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon's chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) will forever alter his life.

As has been announced fairly recently, many of the cast members have been nominated for Academy Award this year - and when you look at their performances, it isn't hard to understand why. Lead actor Chiwetel Ejiofor makes his portrayal of Northup very interesting, as his defiance of his oppressors is almost empowering. On the flipside, his character slips effortlessly into despair, which can be heart-wrenching (for lack of a better word) at times. However, the real stand-out performance for me comes from Michael Fassbender, whose plantation-owning character genuinely scares at times. Even when off-screen, the mere threat of his character instills dread into the audience - one particular instance is when Solomon tries to smuggle a letter out without being caught, and the tension and sense of danger is palpable. Another noteworthy performance in the film comes from Lupita Nyong'o, whose portrayal of Patsey - a sexually abused slave - is harrowing and especially impressive when taking into account that 12 Years a Slave is her feature film debut.

The visuals of the film are, surprisingly, quite artistic - there are certain shots in the film that are beautiful to behold, yet this serves the purpose of making the action onscreen even more horrific. Some of the worst instances are when one of the characters is being tortured in the foreground, yet others in the background seem oblivious to this. The music in the film helps to heighten the sense of shock in scenes like these; Hans Zimmer's soundtrack is, once again, a perfect fit for this film, although in my mind it did sound strangely reminiscent of parts of the Inception soundtrack.

So, overall I'd say that 12 Years a Slave is well worth a watch, even if it isn't the most comfortable film to view. The violence always shocks but is never over-the-top, and the acting is first rate - I'm expecting this film to win big at the Oscars this year. Let me know in the comments if you've seen this film and what your thoughts on it are.

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