12 Years a Slave (2013) Review

Director: Steve McQueen

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Kenneth Williams, Michael Fassbender…

It took a strangely long time for a film like 12 Years a Slave to surface. And when it did, Hollywood finally decided it was time to address the issue of America’s past all at once, with Tarantino’s Django Unchained released in the same Oscar season.

Steve McQueen’s films are powerful. We already saw the impact of his lengthy and lingering scenes in Hunger and Shame, but given the gravitas of the subject at hand, this film was never going to be anything other than a complete triumph. McQueen and director of photography Sean Bobbitt have created the most realisitc representation of the antebellum United States that has ever been seen on screen. The shocking violence of this time in America’s history is not diluted. Scenes are brutally honest and like those two trademark scenes from Hunger, they linger. That there is no escape from what you are watching unfold is the true achievement of this film. You can’t retreat to any comforting scenes, this is America’s legacy of brutality in full display.

The performances are physically furious. Fassbender is excellent throughout. A pathetic and evil plague that never goes away. A constant tryant from start to finish, that like the subject of the film, still needs to be addressed at the film’s close. Ejofor and Nyong’o are both outstanding in their leading roles.

One of the best and most important films of the decade and the deserved Best Picture winner of 2014. Recommend you view it in a triple bill with Django Unchained and Dave Chappelle’s time haters.

Rating: 10/10.