By Jack Rico
The “1-4-0″: 12 Years A Slave is one of the best and most emotionally arduous, punishing 2hrs you’ll experience in a movie theater this year. Its level of cruelty will break you.
The Gist: Based on a true story, a black violinist gets kidnapped in 1841 and spends 12 years a slave getting beaten, humiliated and broken, yet his love for his family allow him to survive the long haul.
The Highlights: When one sees a film filled with themes of cruelty and violence, it is difficult to hail its highlights. These visceral films are affecting and evoke sentiments of anger and indignation, but one can admire its storytelling, performances and directing. Let me begin with the direction. Steve McQueen has made 3 films and all have tackled with a man challenged by an extreme struggle. His well-crafted compositions of shots are arresting and his usage of heartbreaking brutality will pierce through apathetic viewers. Actually, many of you will come out in tears and emotionally gutted. The performances are just fantastic, full of conviction and never overdone. Though I don’t see protagonist Chiwetel Ejiofor winning an Oscar, I do see him easily nominated. In regards to Lupita Nyong’o, who played slave Patsey, she seems a lock to win Best Supporting Actress right now.
The Lowlights: When someone asks if I would recommend to see emotionally devastating films such as Precious or in this case 12 Years A Slave, I am torn. On one end, I am a fervent believer that paying to see a film = entertainment, in other words, escaping the already established injustices of our own reality. So then why would one want to pay to be fractured by a movie? It’s masochism. On the other end, when a director like McQueen treats traumatic stories with artistry, that artistry should be seen and appreciated. 12 Years A Slave is not for everyone. There should be a disclaimer at the open credits announcing the inhumanities the story takes these characters, and us, through.
Pay or Nay?: Pay for it. Many are calling 12 Years A Slave hands down the best movie of 2013. I might not necessarily agree with that yet, but no drama comes close to its revolting violence, cruel humanity and relentless injustices. From rape, torture, kidnapping, devastating degradations, flesh exposed whippings and death by hanging, director Steve McQueen sets out to project the severe treatments of slaves at the hands of ruthless white men in 1841. I will confess, this film is uncomfortable and emotionally disturbing to watch. All you’ll want to do is jump into the screen and put a hurt on these degenerate slave masters. But when films extract any type of emotion from us these days, it is admirable. We’re very jaded and to be able to immerse yourself in a story is quite the treat. Some say that there is beauty in the savagery of McQueen’s direction. It is a difficult task to find, but the film’s ferocious brutality allows us to appreciate how far we’ve come as people, how much we have evolved in such a short time and how the wretchedness of humanity never truly lasts. To appreciate the present, one has to understand the past and 12 Years A Slave was quite the reality check. It is demanding and emotionally exhausting, but worth the effort. It’s one of those rare movies whose effect is haunting.
Rated: R for violence/cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality
Release Date: October 18, 2013
Screenplay: John Ridley
Director(s): Steve McQueen
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Alfre Woodard, Michael K. Williams, Garret Dillahunt, Quvenzhané Wallis, Scoot McNairy, Taran Killam, Bryan Batt, Dwight Henry
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Film Genre: Drama, Biopic