Wednesday, 15 January 2014

12 Years a Slave: a review

Yesterday I happened to be passing the Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley.  12 Years a Slave was showing, so I paid £6 for admission, bought a fruit juice from the trendy cafe/snack bar, and went into one of my favourite cinemas in the world. (The Phoenix has a very interesting history.)

It was a very worthy film, but the experience was not enjoyable because it is uncomfortable viewing. There are harrowing scenes. Brutality, cruelty and vicious racism are clearly portrayed. This is not a film for those of a nervous disposition. If my sister watches it then she will, no doubt, be fast forwarding some scenes on the DVD player.

The acting in this film, which won the Golden Globe 2014 for best picture (drama), was brilliant with a strong cast.  There are notable performances by Benedict Cumberbatch (as a compassionate but morally weak slave owner), Michael Fassbender (as a sadistic slave owner), Brad Pitt (as a righteous Canadian carpenter) and Paul Giamatti (as a worldy wise slave trader).  Of course, Chiwetel Ejiofor was exceptional as Solomon Northup.  He is expected by some critics to win this year's Oscar for best actor, (but the favourite Matthew McConaughey may win). We shall see on Sunday, 2 March. It was directed by Steve McQueen. (No, not the actor who was in The Great Escape.)

The film is based on the memoir by Solomon Northup, published in 1853, and used locations in Louisiana on antebellum (pre-American Civil War, 1861-1865) plantations. Solomon Northup was kidnapped in 1841 in Washington D.C. and sold into slavery to work on plantations in Louisiana, USA.

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