When tasked with re-creating a real life story, directors must keep the foundation of the story while adding just the right touch of film magic in order to create something special. When taking in 2013's 12 Years a Slave everything about this film seems generally authentic and emotional, the only thing used to enhance the experience is a beautiful cinematography that accentuates the feel of the harrowing experience being translated to the screen.
Solomon Northup is a free man living in upstate New York, until one night he is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Solomon pleads his case, but the ruthless plantation owners will not hear him out and soon Solomon is either forced to accept his new life or be killed.
Director Steve McQueens cinematography is what helped recreate the look of the mid 1800's. Showing the churning wheels of the riverboat as it leaves symmetrical lines across the distant ocean, or the sun rise and brisk Louisiana morning each of these visuals helped transition to some of the most emotional scenes in a long time. Easily the most uncomfortable viewing of 2013 thus far, McQueen doesn't shy away from the brutality these men and women suffered at the hands off their ruthless plantation owners. It will undoubtedly make even the most hardened person look away and wince. There was more then one occasion when the violence was just too intense to keep your eyes focused on the screen. McQueen did this in order to fundamentally recreate how horrible these situations must have been to live through during these times.
Lead by Chiwetel Ejiofor in what will probably be a career defining performance from him, 12 Years a Slave is a film that benefits from big time actors playing smaller parts in order to make this film a complete and essential viewing. Actors such as Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson and Brad Pitt had very little screen time but they kept this film flowing at a much needed quick pace. Other then of course Ejiofor the actor who stepped up their game and delivered was Michael Fassbender. It is not at all surprising that Fassbender gave off another defining performance. His intensity and his brutality was downright chilling. He put every ounce of energy into breathing life into his very violent and self destructive character. There were times when Fassbender and Ejiofor shared the screen together and you could feel the level of intensity growing, each actor giving everything they had to this film that is perhaps the most complete film about that era in US history. While Ejiofor's performance was courageous and sentimental, Fassebender was barbarous and cold. His unforgiving facial expressions easily sent chills down your spine. He is quickly proving himself to be one of the most sought after actors currently working. He has proven time and time again he is willing to go the extra mile in order to help elevate the film.
This film has easily emerged as the front runner for best picture at next years Academy Awards ceremony. Fassbender, Ejifor should easily score acting nominations and McQueen will most likely score a nomination and a win for best director. It is easily the most photographic of any film witnessed this year. It blends characters, images, and dialogue to near perfection. In 10 years from now when a list of classic historically accurate films depicting America through the years is formed, this film will be on it and sitting near the top of that list.
A film worthy of a view. It's emotional range and characters never fault and each and every actor present in this film plays a part in recreating the true story of Solomon Northup. Despite the often discomfort felt during violent scenes, 12 Years a Slave remains a definite must see for any fan of cinema.