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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ’12 Years A Slave’ likely to sweep this years Oscars

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    Regency Enterprises

    There are movies where, after the credits have begun to roll, you just sit in your seat in silence. You don’t turn to your friend to ask what they thought of it, and you don’t immediately bolt for the exit. Whether you are stunned, contemplative or simply overwhelmed by what you’ve just seen, you’re quiet.

    “12 Years a Slave” is that type of movie, and it’s one that doesn’t come around very often. Heck, you might not even see a movie that produces such a profound emotional and physical effect on an audience in the span of a year.

    From remarkable acting by all involved — especially by lead Chiwetel Ejiofor and supporting actor Michael Fassbender — to the music, to the display of slavery in all of its inhumanity, it is the most powerful film I’ve seen this year.

    Remarkably, the events of the film are based on the real memoir of Solomon Northup. Northup (Ejiofor) is a free black man living in the state of New York in 1841. He is a skilled fiddle player and respected member of his community with a loving wife and two young children. When two men invite him to play in a traveling tour for a couple of weeks, Northup accepts — but while in Washington, the men drug Northup, and he wakes up chained to the floor. A free man has now become a slave.

    In an act that further strips him of his humanity, Northup is given the name Platt. He is transported via boat to the South, where he eventually comes to the plantation of the maniacal Edwin Epps (Fassbender). His horrific time spent there comprises most of the film.

    In “12 Years a Slave,” the disturbing and nearly unthinkable evils of slavery are held up for all to see. Indeed, if it weren’t for visceral, authentic depictions of slavery like this, we might never understand the full extent of the horrors that were treated as commonplace in those times. Though such pieces of cinema are important, make no mistake that this is a brutal movie that can be very difficult to watch.

    There are no cartoonish explosions of blood a la “Django Unchained.” From hangings, to the wailings of children and their mothers as they are separated in an auction, to savage beatings where each solid “thump” is felt, this film perpetually induces a perturbing, uncomfortable physiological response in its audience.

    During the climactic whipping scene, which shows the very flesh being flayed from a slave’s back, a couple in the theater walked out. Scenes like this will be etched into you.

    At the least, I expect Oscar nominations for Ejiofor and Fassbender. Ejiofor lends dignity to Northup’s character. There are shots where the camera rests solely on his face, and although he doesn’t say a word, his heavy eyes reveal his tortured emotions.

    Fassbender’s Epps is the Nero of the South, a crazed, cruel man who rapes his slave women and forces his slaves to wake up and dance for him in the middle of the night. The supporting cast features Benedict Cumberbatch as a relatively sympathetic slave owner and preacher, Paul Giamatti as a callous slave auctioneer and Lupita Nyong’o as Epps’ favorite slave, who forms a friendship with Northup. All deliver outstanding performances.

    The score, by Hans Zimmer, is worthy of note. Heavy strings that hearken back to the track “Time” from Zimmer’s “Inception” score contain sorrow and a sense of nostalgic yearning, a part of the very essence of Northup. This is but one example of the score, and all of the other pieces play their roles just as well.

    Not everyone will watch “12 Years a Slave,” but everyone should. All aspects of this film work as a cohesive, effective whole. Expect it to dominate this awards season but also, more importantly, expect it to be mentioned 10, 20 and 30 years down the line in the annals of cinema.

    Grade: A

    Follow Alex Guyton @TDWildcatFilm

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