While he has been at it for some time director Steve McQueen garnered a lot of recognition with his Michael Fassbender led film Shame. Now the two are back together again alongside an impressive cast for 12 Years A Slave. This powerful true story has been that talk of Hollywood tearing its way through all of the various awards leading up to recently winning the Oscar for Best Picture. Does this film actually manage to bring this powerful story to life or is the hype more the driving force?
12 Years A Slave follows the true story of a free black man in the pre-Civil War United States who is kidnaped and sold into slavery. Throughout his struggle he fights to stay alive and retain his dignity all while trying to regain the freedom that was once his. Going into this film you already know just from the subject matter that it is going to be powerful and heart-wrenching on some level. The film features an impressive cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, Lupita Nyong’o, Brad Pitt, and Michael K. Williams who are all at the top of their game. The story is powerful on its own, but here loses itself a bit with the way the film is structured. This doesn’t hurt the film in any way it just never gets as powerful as it should have been. There are plenty of moments that do get this across and most of it coming from Chiwetel Ejiofor, but even more so from some of the supporting players who are never on screen long enough to really leave the mark they were meant too. Lupita Nyong’o and Michael Fassbender were fantastic and while they lasted longer than most of the supporting cast still seemed to be gone too fast. Of course everyone can’t be there the whole time, but the slow pacing and over forced flashbacks took away time that could have been used to bring more to these other players alongside Ejiofor.
While no one is expecting an action movie here the pacing was really slow that would have been fine had the powerful nature of the film been fully realized. Make no mistake this is an excellent film, it just doesn’t pack as much of an emotional punch needed to do this story complete justice. Most likely there were aspects that were toned down because most audiences couldn’t have handled it and that is understandable, but sometimes the pain of these horrible times need to not be watered down and instead put on display so that the mistakes of the past can be truly realized. Despite what you may feel are issues or not with the film itself, this is an important film that should be seen by everyone.
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