Saturday, November 9, 2013

12 Years a Slave

Here Solomon is running. That is misleading since the 
movie is slow paced. it is giving the prospective
viewer hope there will be a dramatic and 
exciting escape.  Don't go there thinking you will
see fast paced action. 
Plot: The title tells the whole story so don't complain about spoilers. Solomon (Chiwetwel Ejiofor) is kidnapped in Washington DC, and shipped to Georgia as a slave, where he keeps his head down. He endures many hardships with the other slaves. He has different owners, who are more and less cruel. At the end of twelve years, he manages to get freed.  [imdb]    [photos]

Review: Just like the title tells you the whole plot, it also forecasts the movie experience. Here is a guy who seems like anyone -- suddenly kidnapped and reduced to horrors from the middle ages -- with chains, muzzles, whippings, loads of indignity and rape. We get a relentless cataloging of terrible slave experiences to let the audience see what it must have been like.

It is interesting to see the mental states of the slave owners -- who manage to justify their cruelty with bible verses and racial supremacism. Mrs Epps (Sarah Paulsen) is especially interesting, because she knows her husband is having sex nightly with the Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o). She is very tough and unsympathetic.

Chiwetel Ejiofor's performance is often excellent -- he finds a lot of ways to show suffering on his face. I also like Lupita Nyong'o for the same reason -- her scene where she begs for suicide is dramatic and should win an supporting actress Oscar.

The sound track is pretty good. The photography is solid, but not overly creative.  There are pretty pictures of moss hanging from trees.

I liked the cross-cultural experience and the immersive experience of  12 Years a Slave.

I was weary of the unrelenting terribleness of it. I did not like the unhappiness of the ending -- as mentioned, the twelve years expire, he manages to get rescued. Does he smile as the carriage leaves the plantation?  NO. Does he smile as he greets his wife and now grown children? NO. Do the kids smile back? NO  Is this anything like the tearful and joyful reunions of countless soldiers returning from Afghanistan or even men being released from prison today? NO. Couldn't they have allowed one happy moment?   One little smile in 143 minutes?   I guess not.

Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong'o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt

Directed by: Steve McQueen (the black London-born director, not the American Actor)

Rating: 3.0 stars:  This is a weighty movie about weighty topics. While it is hard to watch, the movie is in service of a worthy goal, and it certainly helps people understand the evils of slavery. It makes me think about human trafficking today. There are also two Oscar worthy performances. On the other hand, the unrelenting sadness and terror was unnecessary. It was manipulative and borders on melodramatic. 
More: Here is another link on human trafficking in Michigan.