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Sunday, October 20, 2013

12 Years A Slave (2013)

In 1841, a black freeman and musician (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is lured from New York to Washington DC by two con men (Taram Killam, Scoot McNairy) with the promise of work. To his horror, he finds himself kidnapped and transported to the South where he is sold into slavery. Based on the incredible true story of Solomon Northup who chronicled his years in slavery in book form, this is a powerful gut wrenching film experience. One would have to be inhuman not to be affected. But after two and a half hours of seeing black men whipped, tortured, lynched, murdered, humiliated, black children torn from their mother's arms and sold into slavery, black women raped and beaten, one becomes numbed and it can become an endurance test if you let it. Who doesn't know that slavery is the most abominable and shameful chapter in American history? The film doesn't tell us anything we don't already know and the way director Steve McQueen takes an almost sadistic pleasure in showing it to us is disturbing. Still, this is preferable to the cartoon buffoonery of DJANGO UNCHAINED. McQueen puts the sting back in the evil of slavery and trust me, no one will laugh. With two minor exceptions, it's superbly acted, notably by Ejiofor whose performance is stunning and by Lupita Nyong'o whose performance will break your heart. The exceptions are Paul Giamatti whose acting bag of tricks are played out and no longer interesting and Paul Dano whose limitations as an actor are increasingly apparent. The rest of the first rate cast includes Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodard, Benedict Cumberbatch, Adepero Oduye, Chris Chalk and barely in the movie, Quvenzhane Wallis (BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD). It's to slavery movies what SCHINDLER'S LIST was to Holocaust movies and to be honest, I'm not sure if I could ever sit through either again.

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