YEARS A SLAVE
SYNOPSIS: 12 YEARS A SLAVE is based on an incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender) as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomonís chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) forever alters his life.
REVIEW: Some may ponder what qualifies Steve McQueen to bring us such an epic and historically relevant story; however, some may exclaim that heís the ideal director for the telling of this extraordinary event, in American history. For reassurance, one has to look no further than his 2008 Hunger flick which depicts the martyrdom of Bobby Sands whom led members of the Irish Republican Army on a hunger strike in a Northern Ireland jail. Simply put, McQueenís directorial voice gives us a cold, extremely unadulterated, and deterministic, sequence of events that keeps it from attaining the kind of elegance that we the audience have become accustomed to appreciating and then forgetting, in short order. Nevertheless, in this case and because of such focus on being true to Solomon Northupís recollection of events, this McQueen effort resulted more in playing out like a crude, but well scripted documentary, rather than a big studio Hollywood production. Itís simply a case of excellent material being presented in the wrong format. Iíd like to proclaim that it can be likened to Steven Spielbergís 1997 Amistad, about a mutiny on a slave ship in 1839, but it simply has too much a documentary feel to it.
On one hand, this movie has the potential of creating rage amongst those in our community whom are still dealing with the unhealed wounds of some of the darkest days in our history. Yet, on the other hand in that second, as one sifts through his or her own feelings of sorrow and rage, this flick doesnít at all feel like itís about the past. Instead, thereís a sense of honoring what so many Americans were forced to go through during a very, very dark period in our history and trying to make a modern audience feel the weight and burden of an ancestral experience.
Another of the many notable things that give this movie an element of authenticity is a soundtrack of sorts. Not your typical movie soundtrack, but more like screen-filled sequences with spiritual songs by the slaves that seem to contrast their kinship amongst one another, with the brutality of their slave-drivers.
Though this work marks the voice of a true film artist, Iím going out on the limb and going against the grain here to say that this flick contains excellent subject matter, excellent acting and casting, and definitely an element of historical relevance. However, the way itís presented here is more in the fashion of an extended documentary rather than a solid Hollywood blockbuster. Therefore, the idea of rushing out and dealing with the cost of theater viewing is probably not worth it. A nice evening set aside for DVD or pay-per-view viewing, is probably in order here. Having said this, the movie does deserve four out of five stars for serious subject matter and fundamental relevance, though it suffers by way of presentation. Still, I truly believe 12 Years as a Slave will be remembered during the upcoming awards
By Movi-Man Stan
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