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Steve McQeen's 12 Years a Slave - Ejiofor, Fassbender, Pitt, Cumberbatch


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The trailer for this is coming online later this week, and also attached to certain prints of World War Z (Pitt's company Plan B produces them both). It marks the third re-team of Fassbender and McQeen, after Hunger and Shame, and is already gathering some very strong early word. Good to see Ejiofor in there too, an actor who doesn't get half the publicity and work he deserves.

Set for release on December 27, Twelve Years a Slave is based on the 1853 autobiography of Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, who was abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender), as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) will forever alter his life.

The film, featuring a script by McQueen and John Ridley, also stars Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Garret Dillahunt, Sarah Paulson, Scoot McNairy, Ruth Negga, Alfre Woodard and Michael Kenneth Williams.

First stills -

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 3 months later...

Great movie, very tough in places as you'd expect, the performances are superb across the board, Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor in particular are phenomenal. My one criticism is the music, I normally love Hans Zimmer, but my god he was a bad choice, at least one of the songs was practically lifted straight from Inception. That aside, I thought it was excellent and a very powerful piece of cinema.

(take tissues)

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  • 2 months later...

Saw this earlier at a Cineworld preview, it's a fantastic if harrowing film - as hoot says Fassbender and Ejiofor give incredible performances, both easily the best I've seen in this Oscar season from male performers. Many of McQueens framing and shots reminded me of Terrence Malick - it often moves at a languid pace but the time flew by.

I quite liked the score but Inception isn't particularly fresh in my memory so didn't get any recall from that, sounded very Colin Stetson-esque in places. Think my main criticism would be with Brad Pitt's character but he may well be true to life.

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I've raved about this in the movie blog thread, seen it a few times and if anything I found it more affecting on subsequent watches. Film of the year for me and one that has finally pushed Steve McQueen into being my favorite director today. I hope this film encourages people to check out Hunger and Shame.

As for this film, I think as it grows in popularity (especially during the Oscars) people will find more and more faults with it. I've already heard all sorts of bizarre criticisms about Fassbender's character being a stereotypical evil bad guy. It's all nonsense, they miss the layers of Fassbender's total reck of a character being in love with one of his slaves and the power dynamic going on with his wife.

I do agree Brad Pitt maybe wasn't the best choice to play Bas. He's good but a) It's jarring to see such a 'celebrity' in this film and b) He looks like Brad Pitt trying to act (smirks and all). It's not really a problem and it works well but he doesn't nail that character as much as every other character in this film. Seriously, the other actors nail this and it's a joy to experience such talent.

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I thought the soundtrack was just great. It's similar to Shame in that there seems to be one prominent track that instantly becomes the theme throughout the film and naturally eases in and out at different sections of the song. It worked really well for Shame and it works here again. You get people comparing it to Inception's 'Time' and I see that but I think this version of it is different enough and fits with this film. There are also these dramatically different parts of the score that are really unique (i.e 'boat rear view' and 'tree&mud' parts) that are really creative and wonderful in their own way (Reminded me of 'There Will Be Blood'). Other than that I don't recall much else other than characters singing. So it's not a great OST for listening to outside of the film but in the context of the film and the way it's edited I thought it worked wonders with the visuals and storytelling.

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Saw this earlier at a Cineworld preview, it's a fantastic if harrowing film - as hoot says Fassbender and Ejiofor give incredible performances, both easily the best I've seen in this Oscar season from male performers. Many of McQueens framing and shots reminded me of Terrence Malick - it often moves at a languid pace but the time flew by.

I quite liked the score but Inception isn't particularly fresh in my memory so didn't get any recall from that, sounded very Colin Stetson-esque in places. Think my main criticism would be with Brad Pitt's character but he may well be true to life.

I went to the preview too and thought it was great, the soundtrack was a bit overbearing at times but the acting more than makes up for it.

I did find the sense of time a bit lacking in the film but maybe that was just me or the fact that the days would have just blurred into each other, it would have been helpful to see how long he spent in each place, I think I'll look out for the book anyway though.

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I feel like I'm going to be in the minority here but... whilst I enjoyed the performances, I found the film to be increasingly flawed. For me, at least.

As has been mentioned before, McQueen makes almost no effort to display the passing of time. Patsy doesn't seem to age, even though we should probably assume that we were in her company for around 8 years, and bar a light dusting of grey on his return to New York, neither does Solomon. Without the title, it felt like around a year, which takes away some empathy from the main character's struggle.

There were powerful, horrifying scenes, but I don't believe that it is difficult to make horrifying depictions of a horrifying topic. The antagonists were mostly one-dimensional sadists with inadequacy issues, which we've seen a thousand times before. Where they hinted at some more interesting avenues (and depth) for the overseers and owners, this was quickly squashed to regain the film's pantomime villains. Sarah Paulson was given almost nothing to work with on that front.

I found Solomon himself hard to empathise with. If he's shunning his fellow victims by doing 'whatever it takes to survive', then why would he display such brazenly disadvantageous attitude to the overseers who would kill him for fun? If he shows that attitude because he's not willing to give up who he really is, then is 'who he really is' someone who not only doesn't care about fellow slaves - but sees himself as a different breed?

For a brief period, with the alcoholic day-labourer, I thought we would get an insight into the torn morality of a man with a job who is not a natural sadist, but is doing what he must to survive. He might have mirrored the way that the refined Solomon was a fish out of water. But that was quickly chucked out, and the guy was stooge, and everyone in the South was a cutthroat sadist. Again.

I'd recommend watching it for those strong performances, but it doesn't bring anything new to the genre for me.

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I found this surprisingly conventional - if that's the right word - in light of McQueen's past work. It wasn't nearly as brutal as I was expecting (and, arguably, as it perhaps should be) with only one scene really proving difficult to watch. That isn't to say it's a bad film, of course - it's actually a very good one, with some excellent performances, particularly from Ejiofor, Fassbender (adding a bit of light and shade to what might otherwise have been a one-note character) and Nyong'o, with Cumberbatch and Dano putting in fine cameos.

While Pitt deserves credit for his role in bringing it to the screen, he's badly miscast here, but it's Zimmer's score that is the weakest link, with one theme almost a carbon copy of his work on Inception, which I found really rather jarring. I'm not sure the film brings anything particularly new to the table, either, even it's never a bad thing to take a long, stern look at a shameful period in history. Perhaps I'm doing it a disservice, but I felt it was a very well-made film with a few minor flaws rather than the modern masterpiece it's being painted as. Maybe it needs a second viewing.

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Thought this was very good. A very difficult watch but it makes a mark and will stay with me for years, just like Hunger. Chiwetel ejiofor was excellent but I thought all the other leads gave flawed performances particularly in their attempted southern accents. As good as Michael fassbender is he can't seem to sustain an accent consistently. The impact of the film was lessened slightly by having so many familiar faces appearing one after the other.

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I really enjoyed it, but not getting all this masterpiece talk. I also agree about the cast being a bit too full of famous actors, a lot of British ones too! My thoughts below aren't very spoilery

I didn't think Fassbender's character was a typical plain evil type - he was an alcoholic in a crap relationship who was taking it out on others which is much more human than you normally see for a bad slave master type role and so I thought his performance was outstanding for that.

But I also agree that I didn't feel it was that harrowing or "tough" - maybe I just heard it talked up lots of I have no soul. Frankly the things I've read about slavery are much much worse.

Basically I agree with everyone here - and not the mainstream critics. This is not normal.

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Just returned from seeing this.

Great film. Immense performances from Ejiofor & Fassbender. I didn't find it much more discomforting than Mississippi Burning to watch.

Agree about the lack of depiction about the passing of time but the film still stands as a riveting piece but given the title they should have made more effort with chronology.

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I thought that this was an incredible film & worthy of all the accolades that it's received.

Ejiofor & Fassbender (as always) both give remarkable performances & it's beautifully directed by McQueen. There's a danger when making something about such an emotive subject as this that it could fall easily into melodrama & play predictably to tugs on the heartstrings, but I didn't find that the case here at all. It's certainly a very harrowing & powerful film but I have huge admiration for the way in which it presented its message & it'll live long in my memory.

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I'm about two hours (out of 8) into the audio book and we're still only at the auction scene. So far I've not felt like they missed anything significant from the book in this film. Only 25% into it though so perhaps there are interesting extra scenes later?

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I'm about two hours (out of 8) into the audio book and we're still only at the auction scene.

Exactly. He's a slave within five minutes. You don't get to know him other that he is polite before hand. And the five minutes he spends on each of Cumberbatch's place and the other guy that gets cotton worms is over in about 5 minutes. There are a number of scenes that seem designed to elicit an emotional response because they are horrific or torturous, but you really never get a sense of any relationships he develops at all. It seems rushed. It's beautifully shot, the T Mobile music is a bit crap and the characters and narrative never get a chance to evolve or show what's going on. We're told what to feel by the music, the script or the lashings.

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That's the other crit I don't get, no passing of time? It's in the title? It's 12 years. Why is it important to highlight the dates throughout the movie? All you really need to know is that this ordeal was for several years.

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That's the other crit I don't get, no passing of time? It's in the title? It's 12 years. Why is it important to highlight the dates throughout the movie? All you really need to know is that this ordeal was for several years.

If something needs to be in the title to be apparent, it's poorly directed. This was poorly directed.

I'd love someone who'd only seen the film to tell me how long he spent at each of the three plantations. Or why no obvious ageing was apparent. Essentially the whole ordeal was undermined by seeming too quick - this was reflected in the lack of character development too.

If you want to know what I'd do differently, I'd suggest that showing physical wear and ageing on the victims would be helpful. As would showing the repeated passing of the same seasons, showing a seemingly endless futility. Possibly showing a gradual change in personality and attitudes from the one-note overseers and owners.

I'm a little struck by how much gushing praise this film is getting. With every passing day I have less time for it.

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Thought this was good. Not much more than that. The passive nothingness of the main character made it hard for me to empathise. I never felt like he missed his kids, the cotton picking work didn't really seem particularly hard. In fact, apart from the odd whipping, I didn't really get the feeling of hardship that I should be feeling with such a repulsive subject matter.

I always find whipping a weird one in films. Because i've never been whipped, it never makes me flinch or suffer in the same way something like a thumbscrew would.

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