Steve McQueens “12 Years A Slave” is nothing like the crass comedies, futuristic action-adventure, and horror films one may typically entertain themselves with during a night out at the cinema, in fact, there is nothing entertaining about it. The film is cinema at its finest-from the long camera shots that hold steady to capture the essence of a character to the development of the story that brings this autobiography to life.
Based on the novel written in 1820 by Solomon Northup , the film narrates the life of a free black man living in the 1800′s who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Its brutally accurate and graphic depiction of slavery brings to the surface, the highest level of discomfort that one could possibly experience over the course of a feature length film.
The films uncomfortably lengthy shots of men hanging from trees and close-ups of individuals wiped back make for startling, eye-covering moments that no Hollywood thriller could ever recreate.”12 Years A Slave” is superior to all in its class, and, sports one of my favorite introductions “based on a true story.”
Despite the undeniable feeling of discomfort and intense subject matter, “12 Years A Slave” is still a beautiful production. It’s the type of film that one shouldn’t enjoy seeing but one that everyone should see-recounting important segments of our nations history that should never be forgotten (and masterfully done so as well.)
The film is so well scripted you often find yourself right there with these characters, cutting cane and falling victim to their intolerable environment. It’s the pulsating pauses that keep you completely entwined, and collective silent gasps from the audience make you realize that what we are all taking in at crucial moments.
For those of us who saw Roots when it was released many years ago, 12 Years A Slave brings back that storyline in a down to earth and important film for those who forgot or for those generations to far removed from Alex Haley’s story.