Written by / 10/25/2013 / No comments / , , , , , , ,

12 YEARS A SLAVE

year: 2013 cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch rating: **1/2
The best thing about 12 YEARS A SLAVE is Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, a free man from New York who was abducted and sold into slavery... With limitless potential, the African American actor deserves this starring role. The worst thing is he’s mostly stuck providing stock reactions to other characters, ranging from beaten slaves to formidable slavers.

Director Steve McQueen (who should add a middle initial to separate him from the legendary actor because he will NEVER BE AS FAMOUS) might have been influenced by Spielberg’s holocaust epic SCHINDLER’S LIST… There's already a score of comparisons between both films. What’s missing in 12 YEARS are the reasons and/or motivations for showing the atrocities other than being a true story about the infamous Antebellum South.

In LIST, Ralph Fiennes's Goeth commits random acts of unfathomable violence that are not only examples of Nazi rule, but cause the protagonists to counterbalance in a mental game of cat and mouse. Here all Solomon Northup's left to do is witness the maniacal madness of Michael Fassbender’s sexually-driven plantation owner after surviving over-the-top henchmen Paul Dano and Paul Giamatti. One good scene has Solomon outsmarting a bullying overseer, coming up with a more useful idea that winds up benefiting the plantation owner. But this is too soon followed by a prolonged and torturous beating that keeps the story dragging within an exploitative and limited storyline. And while it's ultimately moving and historically significant, and Ejiofor does have moments to rise above the increasing and unceasing torment, Solomon Northup's plight feels more like a single prolonged experience with various characters and locations than a multi-layered biopic for the audience to get completely lost in, making those grueling 12 YEARS seem more like months... even days.
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