Last year, watching Quentin Tarantino’s pop slave drama Django Unchained, the cruelty on-screen could be hideous and shocking, but one thing it never was, at least to me, was terrifying. Even when the white-on-black violence left you drop-jawed, it was still part of a heightened Tarantino landscape of thrills and sick spectacle and kicky dark danger and revenge. But in Steve McQueen’s agonizingly magnificent 12 Years a Slave, which premiered last night in Toronto, a sense of terror is alive in almost every scene. To describe even one moment of this movie as a “kick” would be obscene. It evokes the lives of African-American slaves as the nightmare it was, with violence spun into a daily fabric of brutality, one that’s neither heightened nor exaggerated, just scarily real. Forget the earnest and epochal (but, in hindsight, not really raw enough) TV mini-series Roots, forget the baroque exploitation of Mandingo, and — despite the overstated accolades it received — forget Django. As a drama of the slave experience, 12 Years a Slave renders them all irrelevant. It is a new movie landmark of cruelty and transcendence. READ FULL STORY
Tag: Lupita Nyong'o (1-2 of 2)
12 Years a Slave is the movie that left a whole theater speechless. And that’s saying something.
Festival-goers tend to gab easily about their likes or dislikes as they walk out of a film, but the crowd exiting Friday night’s emotionally crushing 12 Years a Slave showing struggled to express their overwhelming admiration. They communicated at first mostly in deep exhales and short exclamations like “Wow,” “Amazing,” and “Oh My God …”
Based on a true-life story that starts in 1841, Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as a musician — a free, educated, and rather well-to-do Northern black man — who is kidnapped during a trip to Washington D.C. and transported to the deep South, where he is sold into slavery with no recourse for contacting his family or restoring his legal liberty. It opens to the public on Oct. 18.
Director Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame) and his impressive cast — which includes Michael Fassbender, Alfre Woodard, Brad Pitt and Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o – took the stage after the credits rolled, and the audience managed to shake off its collective shellshock for a standing ovation.
Consider this the first film to qualify as a sure-thing Best Picture nominee, and a formidable contender to win. McQueen, Ejiofor and Nyong’o, who displays immense strength in the face of unconscionable suffering as Patsey, a fellow plantation slave, should also prepare for a long season of red carpets.
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