REVIEW- 12 Years A Slave: On cinematography, emotions and Lupita Nyong’o

The fun thing about seeing a sold-out sad film is that there are way more people around to give you sympathetic looks and offer you as you CRY YOUR EYES OUT.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from 12 Years A Slave, because strangely enough when everyone everywhere is telling me a film is 5 stars amazing and a must see I find it hard to believe that it’s EVERYONE’S favourite, nothing can be THAT good, they must be just saying that and it sort of puts me off (I’ve experienced so much build up and disappointment thank you avatar), but before you even let yourself doubt it a little you should know I’ve never had such an emotional reaction to a film.

Before I saw this, someone I talked to about it was moaning about how McQueen gets treated like an artist when he’s talked about and reviewed (in the traditional painting sense) and not as a filmmaker, which sort of makes sense if you read some serious reviews of his films – and after seeing this I can understand why, the entire film is just ART. The (nerd alert) mise-en-scene of every shot is incredible, each scene works as some sort of beautiful painting or photograph, it’s incredibly confusing to be watching scenes of such horror and to be feeling overwhelmingly disgusted, but simultaneously impressed as a cinematography nerd/enthusiast, it’s a grim confusion.

Alongside this, the characters and script are so good, even some who have less than 10 minutes screen time leave a good impact. Especially the character of Patsy, played by Lupita Nyong’o, whose performance I thought really stole the show. I could talk about the flawlessness of the cast all day (Quvenzhane Wallis!). Chiwetel Ejiofor was the best choice for this character, I am so happy about him playing Solomon, not only does he have a special place in the hearts of fans of Love Actually AKA me, and he is very talented and this part was so good for him. But I can’t begin to imagine how hard some of the scenes must have been to film, I was genuinely scared by Michael Fassbender as the cruel plantation owner Edwin Epps, and he does a wonderful job of it, one scene very near the end was the most unsettling thing I have even seen in the cinema, it’s not because it’s a violent scene at all, but it caused me to weep for the last 15 minutes of the film. The intensity of that scene is the reason I haven’t stopped recommending this film to everyone I’ve come in contact with since viewing it.

All of the above combined and more shows that this film is truly artwork and McQueen is so talented he is raising the bar to an unreachable level. Watching it you can just tell the high level of planning and thought that went into each scene makes me think his storyboards/scripts must be Hitchcock level detailed.

I think the subject contributed a lot to the power of this film, forget Tarintino claiming to make THE FILM about slavery in America, McQueen doesn’t try to brand his film as definitive of the issue, but when the competition is so weak this could easily become that film. This film was so impactful, and dealt with such a tough subject that could really upset people in the wrong way. I would honestly call it a masterpiece – a term I don’t throw around lightly. No other film I’ve seen has ever seemed so 100% to me, and I watch a lot of films, and even days after I’m struggling to balance this review with anything negative about the film, I didn’t really think there was anything bad about the film which can overshadow  such a brilliant production.

By Reba

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