With critics praising 12 Years a Slave as one of the best movies of the year and a serious contender for a majority of the top Oscars, I had to see the film for myself. Even though I have a record of enjoying but not loving these types of films (extremely sad movies that I probably never want to see again), I had to see what all the hubbub was about. And I’m happy I did. 12 Years a Slave is an absolutely fantastic film and one of the best I’ve seen this year.
12 Years a Slave takes place in 1841. We follow Solomon Northup who after being drugged is kidnapped and sold into slavery even though he is a free man.
That’s the plot of the film. There’s not a whole lot to it and that’s both a good and a bad thing. You care for this character and you want to see what happens next in his life. Unfortunately, since this story doesn’t have any subplots of any kind, things slow down about halfway through the movie. The movie doesn’t come to a halt (you still care about what’s happening) it’s just not that exciting. But then the movie picks itself right up and continues its excellency.
That excellency is brought to you by outstanding performances by its cast. Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, and the rest of the cast are fantastic in this movie. They kill it on screen, and even though most of these characters are incredibly racist, the great performances make you want the characters to stay on screen. Michael Fassbender plays one of the plantation owners in this movie and he is outstanding. If anybody’s getting that Oscar, it’s him. He is so despicable and so cruel and Fassbender makes him a joy to watch. Figure that out. Lupita Nyong’o also deserves some serious recognition for her role as Patsey, one of Fassbender’s slaves. She captures such emotion in her character and conveys every line of dialogue flawlessly. If there’s any reason to look forward to that Liam Neeson Non-Stop movie, it’s because we will see her on screen again.
But it’s Chiwetel Ejiofer as Solomon who gives one of the best performances all year. He is phenomenal as this poor character. You root for him every second of the way because you feel for his character. And while writer John Ridley deserves a lot of the credit, it’s Ejiofer who brings Ridley’s screenplay to life in spectacular fashion.
Who also does a spectacular job is cinematographer Sean Bobbitt and director Steve McQueen. These guys have made a gorgeous movie. This movie has no visual effects and no action scenes. It’s just characters talking and it looks beautiful. The colors blend so well together and the environments immerse you in the movie that much more. While your jaw isn’t going to drop per se, you’re still going to be impressed with how well made this movie is. Composer Hans Zimmer also deserves some recognition with his calm and soothing score.
If you’re like me and aren’t the biggest fan of sad and really emotional movies, go see 12 Years a Slave anyway. Your heartstrings will be tugged like never before but it will be worth it. With outstanding performances, direction, and writing, 12 Years a Slave is one of the best historical dramas I’ve ever seen and easily a contender for movie of the year.
For reviews and more from me, Petey Oneto, you can check out my blog but be sure to check back to Resident Entertainment for more of my posts in the future.