JUST WATCHED: 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Directed by Steve McQueen
The new historical film from Steve McQueen has only been out for one week nationally, and it already feels like so much has been said in review. Thus far, McQueen has delivered possibly the greatest cinematic treatment of American slavery in the adapted story of Solomon Northrup, a free man abducted and sold into slavery.
One of the most fascinating and powerful elements to this film is the extremely well constructed pace. While many moments are excruciating to witness, ripping at the viewer’s heart, so many scenes are meditative and completely still. Like the memorable 25 minute two-shot in Hunger or the gorgeously smooth running scenes in Shame, McQueen has a distinctive and, in this wide of a release, unique sense of time and breath.
What is great about this film already seeing so much praise is that it foreshadows the possibility of a year where most actually agree on a best picture. Not that these sort of things are in any way necessary, but a film like this is so uncommon. I saw this in a huge room, across the hall from the Big-D screening of Thor: The Dark World.
On that note, some have likened the film to Spielberg’s Schindler’s List in the sense of its definitive portrayal of this time period. In retrospect, however, Schindler’s List, though classic, is a Hollywood film. Because of Steve McQueen’s extensive background in art, design, and video installation work, this film succeeds in sifting past the conventions. And frankly, this film shows a perspective so buried in the darkest moments of the time. I can’t say quite the same of Spielberg’s.
There is no excess of stress that can be put on the need for every American to see this film.
[And also, if Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender do not win Oscars, well, I will be very sad.]