I saw a pretty powerful film today, and figured I could squeeze my thoughts on it into a ‘300 Words’ post. Here’s my last one if you missed it: 300 Words on 25TH HOUR.

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12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013)
Writer: John Ridley / Director: Steve McQueen

12 Years A Slave

If you’re a cinephile and you don’t know the name Steve McQueen by now, you should. No, I don’t mean the deceased star of BULLITT and THE GREAT ESCAPE, I’m talking about the talented British writer and director of HUNGER and SHAME, two films that made my Top 10 lists in their respective years. His latest feature is not only one of strongest of this year, it cemented his place on my must-see directors list. To steal a line, “Leave it to a Brit to make the greatest movie about American slavery.” I don’t know if I’m ready to say it’s the best… yet, but I’m hard-pressed to name one that has tackled it better.

A beautiful film about an ugly subject, 12 YEARS A SLAVE is based on the 1853 memoir of Solomon Northup, a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. It’s a devastating piece of art, but a masterwork on both sides of the camera. I’m a big fan of long takes, and they’ve become a staple of this director. Late in the movie, there’s a brutal single shot whipping scene that’s incredibly moving, and it’s one of the best extended takes I’ve ever seen.

The film is littered with wonderful performances, including strong bit parts from Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Brad Pitt, but it’s lead actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, as the enslaved Northup, and Michael Fassbender, as malevolent slave owner Mr. Epps, who steal the show here, giving two of the most memorable performances of the year. I think they, as well as McQueen and his go-to director of photography, Sean Bobbitt, will receive some long-overdue award recognition this spring.

12 YEARS A SLAVE is, often times, a hard watch, but I think it’s a must watch, and one of 2013’s best films.

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As always, thanks for taking the time, gang.

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Comments
  1. […] 300 Words entries: 12 YEARS A SLAVE, 25TH HOUR _________________________________________ Today’s Distractions Listening: […]

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