DIRECTOR: Steve McQueen
The newest film from acclaimed director Steve McQueen is based on a memoir by Solomon Northrup titled 12 Years a Slave. Northrup was a free black man living in New York who was kidnapped in 1841. He was sold into slavery in Louisiana and was finally rescued in 1853.
The movie is an absolute masterpiece. Everything about the film, from the cinematography, to the acting, to the writing is excellent. What possibly stands out the most is how the film is shot.
There are plenty of long takes which serve to really make the viewer experience the painful, sometimes graphic situations the film portrays. The horrors of slavery aren't sugarcoated here, but rather pushed to the forefront. I'm a huge fan of long takes and McQueen has clearly mastered them. Several of them feature some magnificent blocking and camera moves as well.
McQueen has already proven himself with his two previous films, Hunger and Shame, both of which got rave reviews. This is his third collaboration with cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, who also worked on The Place Beyond the Pines and the upcoming Oldboy remake directed by Spike Lee. 12 Years a Slave was shot on 35mm film in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
The amazing cast features quite a few accomplished actors. The main character, Northrup, was played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. He does a great job of portraying the terror of the situation while still maintaining a quiet dignity. Ejiofor has previously appeared in Salt, Children of Men, and Redbelt. There is a very good chance he could get an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. I can't think of anyone more deserving out the films released so far.
The supporting performances are all top-notch as well. Michael Fassbender is perhaps the best of them all in his haunting role as a sadistic slave owner. Fassbender starred in the two previous McQueen features; they clearly work well together. Benedict Cumberbatch is also outstanding, as is Paul Dano. Brad Pitt does fine in a role that amounts to little more than a cameo. The youngest Oscar-nominated actress ever, Quvenzhané Wallis, also appears.
12 Years a Slave is technically brilliant, but it's also a powerful film that packs an emotional wallop. In my opinion, it's the best movie of 2013 so far. I don't really see any of the upcoming 2013 films surpassing it. The only ones that could possibly compete would be the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis and Martin Scorcese's The Wolf of Wall Street. However, I don't see either of those reaching the heights of this film. 12 Years a Slave will almost surely get a Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, along with several others.
The reception to this film has been almost unanimously positive. It has a score of 97 on Metacritic and the same on Rotten Tomatoes. It also has a 8.6 on IMDB.
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