Brutally realistic, brutally difficult to watch, brilliantly constructed and superbly acted, '12 Years A Slave' is an incredible film. Although the subject and theme of slavery and black rights has been explored increasingly in recent years with the likes of 'Django Unchained' and 'The Help'-both excellent films, '12 Years' avoids the possibility of being a film on the subject which will fade into obscurity by breaking the boundaries of its subjects and delivering a masterpiece onto our screens.
Telling the story of Solomon Northrup, a freeborn black man in pre-civil war America, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery it is clear from the start that the film is hardly going to be an easy sit down and tune out film. I cannot recall many other films which have left me feeling physically sick after some sequences and uncomfortable to watch. Yet those sequences are essential to creating the experience of viewing the film, showing the audience just a tiny snapshot of the lives of slaves and the horrors they suffered.
Although certain brutal sequences stand out the overall feeling and tone of the film is steeped in a dark, sombre and menacing mood, created perfectly by the incredible acting abilities of Chiwetel Eijofor who, along with McQueen regular Fassbender, steals the show. There is no doubt that Eijofor deserves the Oscar for his efforts and constructing a real life character whose experiences would be hard to recreate without insulting his memory. Fassbender's tyrannical and psychotic portrayal of slave owner Epps is physically terrifying, whilst the supporting cast give fantastic performances in the vast variety of roles they perform-especially Lupita Nyong'o's devastating portrayal of Patsey which left me in anguish and sorrow as her character experiences life at the hands of Epps and his mistress.
McQueen's directing abilities have already been well established with both 'Hunger' and 'Shame', productions which have pushed the limits of independent dramas and shown that McQueen is, even after three films, one of the best British and global directors of his generation. '12 Years' pushes his dramatic boundaries further, creating the gutwrenching picture which thoroughly deserved the BAFTAs for Best Film and Best Actor for Ejifor. With a supposed HBO series in the works I look forward to more from McQueen.
To say that I enjoyed '12 Years A Slave' would be an unfitting word to the horrific experience it was to watch. Although the ending of the film is somewhat obvious and some inspiration is expected, the film follows a downbeat ending, offering little hope nor shedding any light (in keeping with Northrup's book), of the lives of Patsey and the other slaves following Northrup's departure. Inspiration is muted to say the least. Yet the purpose of '12 Years A Slave' is not to offer inspiration but to realistically explore the life of an American slave. It is tragic and hard to watch but it is a film which should and must be watched, not just for the technical and creative achievements it makes, but for the story it tells.
'Slumdog Millionaire' is a somewhat predictable but lovely film, combining a honest look at poverty in India with one of the best love stories of recent years. Long overdue, I only recently watched this film and was immediately gripped by a modern rags to riches, or is it rags to rags, and a clever combination of flashbacks.
Telling the story of Jamal who, in order to get the girl-Latika, goes on the Indian version of 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire'. Suspected of fraud, because he knows the answers, Jamal reveals his past story and how he knows the answers. It's a nice story, pulled off by some superb acting and excellent direction from Danny Boyle.
It's not the greatest film of all time and it's not a style I would usually 'love' in the way I did. Yet somehow Boyle and co. pull it off. The cinematography, the love story, it's a nice encouraging pick me up-yet I'm not sure how it really worked.
All I know is-it's an excellent film and worthy of many viewings.