12 Years a Slave
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong'o, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Alfre Woodard
Directed by: Steve McQueen
Run Time: 134 mns
Genre: Drama/ Biography/ History
Opens November 1st
By Lisa Minzey of The Reel Critic.com
Hey Phoenix Film Fans! Opening this week is a film that has racked up several awards at some of the recent film festivals such as the Toronto Film Festival, Hollywood Film Festival, Hamptons International Film Festival and even the BAFTA/LA Britannia Awards. Is this just a warm up to the Oscars or will this film have too much competition in the upcoming awards season?
The year was 1841. Based on a true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) a free black man living in New York; a man who was an accomplished violin player and loving family man and by all accounts during that time was a free man. When his wife and children were out of town for a few weeks, Solomon thought he would take a gig traveling with some fellow performers down to Washington DC and be back before his family would return. It would be a surprise to have some extra income, or so he thought. While in D.C., Soloman was given too much alcohol, kidnapped and since he couldn’t produce any papers proving he was a free man, he was sold to a plantation owner Ford, who was a kind gentleman and appreciated Solomon for his many known talents. This did not sit well with foreman Tibeats (Paul Dano) and tried to punish Solomon every chance he had.
One day Solomon had enough of Tibeats abuse and attacked him, which put Ford in a precarious position. To save his life, Ford sold him to the only man who would take him, a stern plantation owner, Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). There Solomon would face his greatest challenges being in captivity as Epps is of questionable temperament and character. Will Solomon be able to survive and become free or die trying?
In this film, the casting choices are not what you may think but end up surprising in the way that the characters are not as they appear. Benedict Cumberbatch, who in his recent films has been apt to play the villain role, but in this film is one of the more likable, sympathetic characters. Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of the conflicted, yet barbaric plantation owner, is disgusting human behavior, but it’s all in the context of the story and time period. It’s a difficult film to watch; as the beatings, hangings and other forms of violence look authentic. It was interesting to see the stature of Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character go from this regal, classy demeanor broken down to a shell of a man through his posture and mannerisms through the duration of the film.
The upcoming awards season will be an interesting one to watch as this film may be up against other films that have racism as the core theme, such as “Fruitville Station” and “The Butler”. Out of the three films, this one packs the strongest performances by the cast as a whole as the pain and struggle of the characters radiates off the screen. Be sure to keep this one on your awards watch list for the upcoming awards season. “12 Years a Slave” opens on Friday November 1, 2013.