Steven McQueen’s new creation is the devastating biopic of Solomon Northup. Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a black man born free in New York, was abducted and sold as a slave in the south.
McQueen, after Hunger (2008) and Shame (2011), chose another heavy topic, which is slavery in the American south. And what is better than an actual true story? A story that is so painful that any viewer can’t stay unmoved.
McQueen used the violent and cruel scenes of the movie, in a heart-rending way, to depict the brutality and unhuman nature of slavery. A movie that is more like a history lesson and that puts the audience in the position to see through a slave’s eyes. The fact that a British director captured American slavery so well is pretty impressive. The modern and masterful direction made the movie different and more appealing that the usual historical biographies. The great performances, especially from the BAFTA winner Chiwetel Ejiofor, increased the realism of the movie.
Ejiofor was phenomenal. A not so well-known British actor gave a memorable performance and I believe that without him the movie would be very different. In scenes where he had to express strong emotions he showed his skills. He had minor roles in other “big” movies (Children of Men, American Gangster, 2012), but I think, this role is going to establish him as one of the great actors of this generation.
The rest of the cast, many of them big names, was very good, as well. Some of the actors who appeared in this movie are: Brad Pitt as a Canadian carpenter, Paul Giamatti as a slave trader, Paul Dano as plantation overseer (who portrayed another loathing character as in There Will Be Blood), and Benedict Cumberbatch as a relatively decent plantation owner.
I’m reading currently the book People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, which talks about slavery, among the other unpleasant parts of American history, but watching this movie brings that period to life in a way that no history book could ever accomplish.
Why to watch it
1. Because you want to watch something moving and real, even though it’s brutal and painful to watch in some parts.
2. Because you are a fan of McQueen’s work.
3. For Chiwetel Ejiofor, who was beyond-words-good in this movie.
4. Because you want to learn from the mistakes of humankind and see how cruel we can be to our fellow human.
5. Because you have a Ku Klux Klan hat hidden in your closet.
Why to not watch it
1. Because you have a Ku Klux Klan hat hidden in your closet.
2. You are too sensitive to violence and unpleasant stories.
3. You are looking for movies with no story but with explosions. A lot of explosions. Oh, and car chases. Definitely car chases.
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