12 Years a Slave (2013) Film Review

Oscar award winning, 12 Years a Slave is one of the most powerful films of the year. Director Steve Mcqueen conveys a strong message of slavery with an effective cast and wonderful cinematography.

In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. (IMDB)

Chiwetal Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, portrays a powerful yet memorable character. His performance in 12 Years a Slave is phenomenal, where you are drawn to his journey in every scene. The pain suffered, family missed, anger released and emotional stress is realistically brought to life. As the audience, we feel the pain he is going through, in which we’re eager for equality and freedom. Chiwetal gives us chills with his striking performance, where we’re truly left gawking at the screen.

12 Years a Slave not only takes us through the collateral damage, yet provides us an insight on the members who suffered this horrific treaty. Lupita Nyong’o (Patesey) thoroughly and graphically presents this through the slaughter scene. The pain endured and gratifying situation is relentlessly unforgettable. Thus, where the graphics and make-up is realistically created.

Mcqueen takes us on a burning journey, where we truly begin to realise and despise the lack of respect given to the black community. Characters such as Edwin (Michael Fassbender) and Treach (Andy Dylan) truly reinforce their selfishness and zero tolerance towards human beings. We begin to fear their aggressive behaviour, where we wish they were punished for such cruelty. Fassbender perfectly portrays the antagonist, where his cruel motives are heaved through his gritty facial expressions, leading to abuse.

Director Of Photography, Sean Bobbit, relentlessly captures mind-blowing shots. He uses space and the rule of thirds heavily, leaving us feeling empty and cold. The free space around characters denote
this sense of ‘space’ yet freedom is locked and thus they are undeniably trapped. Bobbit tends to use longer paced shots varied from close ups to wide shots. The duration of these shots reject the conventional display time. However, this sense of time is embraced, where the slower paced shots allow us to merge ourselves into the narrative and notice details. In particular, the shot of where Soloman is tied by a rope, ultimately choking is unforgettable. The shot lasts for a long time, yet we still don’t drift away, we’re indulged into the scene soon feeling what he feels.

12 Years a Slave is definitely a must watch for all. As well as an eye-opener, Mcqueen leaves the audience moved and will make you realise how lucky you are that equality somewhat exists in our world. As well as the pain, hope is regained through Soloman, where we’re always left with a tiny thought that this will soon come to an end.

My Rating: 10/10
Written by: Meera Darji

5 thoughts on “12 Years a Slave (2013) Film Review

  1. Great review. I especially how you discussed the impact of the image frames.

    And I totally agree with your take. This is a masterpiece of intensely powerful filmmaking, rife with timeless themes and overwhelming emotion. It is one of the best movies I have ever seen.

    1. Thanks James, glad you enjoyed the film too! The cinematography is stunning along with the powerful narrative.

  2. Wonderful review, Meera. I commend Chitwetel Ejiofor for being able to play that role so well, he really brought it to life for me. It was almost like I could feel his pain and anguish. I was also pretty amazed in his character’s acting and transition into the slave, Platt. When Mistress Epps asked him if he could read, he played his role very well. Even I almost believed him, and I knew the truth!

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