Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a free man living in Saratoga Springs, New York with his wife and children. He works as a carpenter and loves to play the violin in his free time. One day two men offer him an opportunity to make easy money working with them for a circus. Solomon isn’t sure about it, but the money is good and his wife seems have a taste for the finer things in life, so he accepts. Turns out that those men where kidnappers who sold him off as a slave. Such bad men. Many lash. Very exploit. Not wow.
It’s difficult to say anything negative about a film like Steve McQueen 12 Years a Slave, but we’ll have to separate the great, true story the film is based on and the film as a standalone piece of art. While I enjoyed the film overall and it is a great technical achievement in filmmaking (costumes, cinematography, editing etc.) and a masterclass in acting, there were some things that could have been better or just different. One glaring nuisance was Hans Zimmer‘s blockbuster score. I love the German composer as much as the next guy, but he was completely misused here. His music is too much.
As a matter of fact the whole movie could use a little restraint. Look, we all know slavery was a bad thing, you don’t have to convince me, going all ‘Passion of the Christ’ won’t earn you more sympathy. Why not just tell your story as it is? Didn’t they think it was powerful enough? Or did they think the audience was too stupid to be moved by it? I’m not saying they should have taken a documentary approach or made a dry list of facts, but maybe a little more subtlety would have made this picture even more effective. Again, I really liked 12 Years a Slave, but I find it a bit overrated.
I know Chiwetel Ejiofor is getting a lot of love (and rightfully so, he’s fantastic and seems like a great guy), but I’d also like to single out Paul Dano (an underrated actor, who’s been turning in some consistently great work) and Michael Fassbender (in his third collaboration with director Steve McQueen, who has done three films in total thus far). The other cast members are great as well, but I can’t mention everyone here, this is a mini-review after all.
7 out of 10