Once again, it’s after midnight so I can’t really do a full write-up on the movie, though it probably deserves one.
I found it to be significant. The story is a worthy tale, I hadn’t seen it before. The cinematography, as always it seems it will go with Steve McQueen, was gorgeous. The acting was very strong across the board, particularly from Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor who had *several* scenes which lit up the screen. And, at the end of the day, I do think that films that shed light on our dark past are worthwhile and are important to see, remind us of our past, and what horrible things humans can do to humans. I mean, that’s really Steve McQueen’s whole mission, isn’t it? He’s an issues guy, and those issues take the forefront of his story-telling.
My favorite stuff tends to move in a different direction, relying more on characters, empathy, and a balance of laughter and tears. There are only tears in “12 years a slave.” It’s exhausting to watch, which is certainly what McQueen intended. I feel torn about whether I can fault McQueen for that. I’m not sure we see completely eye to eye on how best a story such as a man kidnapped and sold into slavery should be delivered; how best to draw in your audience to the true story, make them care for your hero, and hurt when he hurts.
That isn’t to say that the movie is devoid of all subtlety. There are many moments that are exceptionally well done, most notably for me when Solomon finally leaves the plantation. There are absolutely streaks of genius in McQueen. But overridingly the film is a blunt, shocking affair…which again, is exactly as McQueen wanted it to be. And that’s not untruthful. Slavery is *obviously* a horror show on par with other film subjects as the Holocaust, etc. These things happened.
There’s been a lot of talk about whether this film deserves the hype and the acclaim. I think it does. It’s an experience, which at the end of the day is really the only thing that a (good) film should be. Could it have been better? Yes. Steve McQueen, in my estimation, has a knack for picking exceptional material. His execution on that material leaves me with something to be desired.
12 Years a Slave will remind you of how horrible humans can be to each other. It won’t do anything else.