“Don’t You Dare Compare This To Django”- 12 YEARS A SLAVE Movie Review
12 Years a Slave is a film that only gets better and better as it goes along. What starts off as a slow, heavy-handed depiction of slavery by Paul Giamatti turns steadily into a breath-taking and terrifying depiction of slavery by Michael Fassbender. Gradually, Steve McQueen the filmmaker we loved from Hunger and Shame for his ability to photograph Michael Fassbender starving/ having lots of sex (respectively) winds his way into the true life story of Solomon Northrop (Chewitel Ejiofor), a free and educated black family man from New York who is sold into slavery by a pair of real jerks. One of whom was imported from Saturday Night Live. McQueen shoots the latter, better half of the film in his characteristic long takes, letting the actors unfold as they feel they should, going on until you think there is no way they could possibly keep going and then going on a little longer still. It’s enough to make a film student’s heart flutter.
Ejiofor has long been an actor I have waited to see get his due (but have had more than a little difficulty Googling). He’s been great in films as diverse as Children of Men and Love, Actually and his real talent is on full display here. It’s the performance of a lifetime, and eight Keanu lifetimes. He truly sits in the character of Northrop, letting us live with this man as he goes through a journey most could only dream of and really wouldn’t want it. It’s more than an Oscar worthy performance. Ejiofor ejio-for the gold!
The supporting cast is also positively stacked deep with talent. Benedict Cumberfanlove steps in for a good chunk of the film as a kindly plantation owner who gives Northrop a violin, which is really nice of him considering all the whipping. Paul Dano is also a real stand-out as well, playing his typical, awful weasel of a man and is really stellar and violence-inducing in equal amounts.
But, of course, the supporting performance of the to end them all comes from Michael Fassbender, as the film’s main antagonist (unless you want to argue that the main villain is slavery, which is a case this court will hear) and a notorious “nigger-breaker.” It’s a volatile, surprisingly sexual, and ultimately disarming performance undercut perfectly by his wife, played by Sarah Pauley (the scene shared between her and Ejiofor is the weirdest Serenity reunion one could have possibly dreamed up). I would love to see Fassbender bring the big statue home this awards season, especially since he was denied the prize by McQueen’s Shame, even if that means the award doesn’t go to Sam Rockwell from The Way, Way Back, even though he was denied the prize for Seven Psychopaths and GODDAMMIT OSCAR WHY CAN’T YOU GET THINGS RIGHT? It really is an outstanding performance. There’s a scene between Fassbender and Brad Pitt where Fassbender acts his way out of Brad Pitt’s paper bag for him. It’s not even a contest. Fassbender acts his way out of everyone’s paper bags.
12 Years a Slave is the definitive film about American slavery (even if the idea of at all comparing this film to Django Unchained is like comparing Die Hard to Hotel Rwanda) and is a masterwork that can and should be experienced at cinemas near you. One of the best films of the year and a must-see for history buffs, Ejiophiles, and people who have already seen Gravity three times and are looking for another really sad film to watch.
Final Verdict: A- – Really something phenomenal that must be experienced.
Chekhov’s Gunman is a film and television blog moderated by Kevin Lanigan, a future writer of moves and TV and current writer of a Kennedy Center Honors speech for Chewitel Ejiofor. Be sure to leave your comments below, and follow or subscribe above for more updates.
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