#2 - 12 Years a Slave
I saw 12 Years a Slave last night.
I saw 12 Years a Slave last night.
I was livid and demanded my money back! I thought, judging from the poster, it was a teen comedy about a posh fraternity house and its outrageous initiation ceremonies. It stars the astonishing Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch and of course Brad Pitt with a supporting cast that includes Paul Giamatti and Paul Dano and is directed by Steve McQueen (BTW, if you’re meeting him, don’t waste your time asking him about his earlier career, he won’t answer any questions about The Great Escape, Towering Inferno or The Blob, no matter how nicely you ask).
Anyway, 12 Years a Slave is all about Solomon Northup, a musician of some repute and a decent, family man to-boot, who back in the 1800’s, because of the colour of his skin, gets kidnapped and treated like, well a slave (I can't think of a better word for it) and that's not in a funny way, but in a horrible, back-breaking, daily slog of brutal-beatings, terrible-beatings and truly horrific-beatings, on a daily beatings basis. Then to make sure that we, the audience understand how terrible it was being a slave back in the late 1800s, we get to watch other black people being repeatedly beaten over and over again, or raped and murdered, but mainly beaten.
But it wasn't all-bad, because our hero got to hang out with all these famous people when he wasn’t being beaten, horribly and brutally. For example, he got to help that nice British Sherlock Holmes to unmask a racist gang boss, then he got to hang out with Magneto, but not the old, grumpy version, but the younger, sexier version, who turned out to be very angry and not at all friendly and he didn't have mutant powers either, maybe that’s what made him so angry? And finally, he helped Brad Pitt build houses for Hurricane Katerina survivors. Brad still had his World War Zee beard on, well most of it. He'd managed to shave off the tach, but obviously his beard trimmer had run out of charge cos he'd left on the bottom part so he looked like Abraham Lincoln but without the silly hat and squeaky voice. Actually, apart from Brad, a shopkeeper and a police man every other white person in this film was a terrible racist bastard. Plus to make it even more depressing at the end we're informed that Solomon Northup played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, couldn't even get justice because in his day, a black man wasn't allowed to give evidence in Washington against a white man. This was about 64 years before the First World War.
This is a powerful and deeply difficult film to watch, the poster hails it as one of the greatest films ever made, it might be but I'll never know because I never intend to watch it again. It's upsetting and terrible. And the thing is I already knew that slavery was a terrible, terrible thing, I already hated it, I already understood that considering another man to be inferior to me because of their skin colour was both stupid and wrong. I'm already converted to the cause, I’m sat with the choir, look I’m at the back, waving my hands in the air, by the organ. The people you need to reach are those who don't know this, who don't care and they’re never going to see this film.
Fantastic performances, all round, I can't imagine how difficult it was for the actors having to do this film, particularly the ones forced to behave in ways so alien to them that their roles must have physically hurt.
Very much like The Road, this is an intense and extremely well made movie that is both deeply emotional moving and powerful but if I never see it again it'll be too soon.