Wednesday, April 9, 2014
12 Years a Slave DVD review; an unforgettable story
It's difficult to think about what slaves went through in the United States, in the early part of our country's history. So many people, treated so terribly, because of the color of their skin. While racism unfortunately still exists, we are in a time in history where we HOPE, that nothing like slavery could ever happen again in this country. Sadly, different forms of slavery occur in other parts of the world til this day. Imagine one of those slaves becoming free. Living a happy, fulfilling life. Only to have it ripped away and be forced to return to a life of slavery, all in the blink of an eye. 12 Years a Slave tells that exact story, in an unforgettable way. Let's go.
What I liked about the film:
What. A. Story.
Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Solomon Northup in his Oscar nominated performance. Northup was a free black man, with a family. After a series of events, he finds himself a slave again. How on Earth could this happen? The man has legal documents that prove he's free. But in a time in our country where there were no phones, no internet, no texting; how does Northup prove he is free? How does Northup stay focused on returning to his family? That is a story you're going to have to experience on your own; there are no words I can write that will do it justice. Congratulations to John Ridley for Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay... it was beautiful.
Lupita Nyong'o plays a slave named Patsey, and just crushes the role. Patsey is the object of the plantation owner's affection. She is living the worst life imaginable; but Nyong'o plays the character with just a glimmer of hope. She portrays this beaten woman with a sense of innocence. Her eyes alone scream to the audience, 'why me? What did I do to deserve this?'. Those eyes are enough to have you sobbing, when you see what this character goes through. Congratulations to Nyong'o on her Best Supporting Actress Oscar this year; she so obviously deserved it.
There are several primary white characters in the film. Paul Giamatti, while only briefly in the film, steals the few scenes he's in. He plays a man trafficking slaves. Giamatti's character 'sells' (it pains me to even type that), he sells Northup to the Benedict Cumberbatch character. I loved Cumberbatch in this film. While he is a slave owner, he is portrayed as a compassionate man, who sympathizes with his slaves. Paul Dano plays a plantation worker, who works for Cumberbatch's character. Dano is so damn good at being bad. You want to reach through the screen and wring the character's neck for the things he says and does. And that is a true testament to Dano and his incredible talent as an actor.
Michael Fassbender's character is one of the most evil characters I've ever seen in a film. He is a plantation owner who 'buys' Northup from Cumberbatch. And he's not evil because of what you might think. Yes, he physically abuses his slaves; punishing them for not picking enough cotton in 110 degree heat. But what's worse, is he emotionally abuses them until they are left soulless. Taking away ones body is one thing, but stripping them of their dignity, their pride, their own thoughts, that is something else entirely. Fassbender is so good, he made me uneasy watching him on screen. While he did not win, he most certainly deserved his Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Bravo Fassbender.
Steve McQueen made a lot of good ones in this film. From his choice in casting, to location, to costume, to cinematography, to score, to editing; it all clicked. I hadn't seen this film when the Oscars aired a few weeks ago, and I didn't understand how it could lose out on so many awards, but ultimately take home the Best Picture award. Now I know why. The stars aligned and the movie Gods wanted this story to be told, and in the right way. Congrats to McQueen on winning a Producing Oscar, and hopefully we will see many more films from him in the future.
What I didn't like about the film:
What is Northup Thinking
Literally. What is Northup thinking during his time as a slave. We know he's motivated to get back to his family; but does he wonder if his wife remarried? Does he wonder if his kids will remember him if he ever makes it back to them? Does he plot murder attempts on the men who have abused him for so long? None of Northup's psyche is explored during his time as a slave. And I wanted into this man's head. Is he angry? Does a piece of him, in some sort of brainwashed way, accept his new life as a slave? I don't know if it's necessarily a dislike so much as a wanting for more.
Tough to Watch, Important to Remember