This Friday, make your way to cinema; the first truly, undeniably brilliant film of 2014 is being released.
We are, if you aren’t aware, slap bang in the middle of awards season. It’s that time of year that producers in Hollywood release the types of films that they think will impress the Academy judges when those ballets are released. 12 Years A Slave positions itself perfectly within this bracket but it is so much more than that. A startlingly brilliant film it is tense, dramatic, terrifying, captivating and incredibly hard to watch in places. All of which combines to make a film that won’t leave you for a while.
Director Steve McQueen is quickly becoming one of the most important British directors around. Much like with his previous film Shame he lets his camera linger. This allows us to feel every dramatic beat, every whip crack and every degree of the Southern heat. Nowhere is this more apparent than in 2 particularly horrific scenes; one involving Chiwetel Ejiofor and Paul Dano, the other a single long take centered around a whipping. The second of these 2 scenes is almost unwatchable as it nears it conclusion and yet you cannot look away, so mesmerizing is every single performance. McQueen captures the fear of his characters and the menacing hate of those in charge. Not only did the camera not cut but I would have said that I couldn’t even blink throughout the scene had it not been for the terrifying whip crack that felt like it echoed through the auditorium
Much has been written about Ejiofor and yet the hype doesn’t even come close. I must admit I’m slightly upset as, as a huge Doctor Who fan I have long held the hope that he would one day take the keys to the Tardis. As it is though, his star is about to explode and the rest of the world is now waking up to his brilliance so it is doubtful Auntie Beeb will be able to tempt him back down. Don’t be surprised if his mantel piece gets slightly more full over the next few months.
The supporting cast is just as strong though. Cumberbatch, Fassbender, Dano and even Pitt in a small but crucial role are brilliant but there is one performance that outshines all of them. Hollywood newcomer Lupita Nyong’o is outstanding as Patsey and stands toe to toe with Fassbender more than once, something I think we can all agree is no small task.
I cannot recommend 12 Years A Slave highly enough. It is not an easy watch so don’t go in expecting one. Instead go in expecting the type of film that will stay with you for a long time and one that we will still be discussing in 12 years time and beyond.
Reece Lipman is a freelance filmmaker and writer who specialises in low budget short films and music videos under the banner of Shimmer-Man Productions. Reece has also performed at the Edinburgh Fringe comedy festival and has a dangerously nerdy fascination with pop culture. He can often be found trying to convince people why Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Doctor Who are the greatest things that have ever existed and wakes up most mornings wishing that he was Joss Whedon or Edgar Wright. You can read more from Reece on his website or you can follow him on Twitter (@ReeceLipman).