2.21.2014

12 Years A Slave REVIEW

The race for this year's best picture Academy Award is arguably one of the toughest in years. After seeing 12 Years A Slave just this afternoon, I understand why. If there's one film that could make me second-guess if Gravity really is the best film among the nominees, it is 12 Years A Slave. And the audience in the cinema agreed, starting an applause right after the film ended. It was the first time I ever experienced something like that. Maybe it's coherent to the fact that this was my first time in a French cinema. Does anyone know if it's unusual for the French to applaude a film?



Stop reading here if you want to avoid spoilers.


First and foremost, this film tells a very important story. It shows the cruelty of slavery like I - probably as well as many, many others - have never seen it before. That in itself makes this film worthy of its praise and recognition. Freedom isn't as self-evident as it often seems and of course it stays important to keep that message alive. Slave definitely helps with that.

Then I would like to applaude Chiwetel Eijofor's stunning leading performance. Starting off as a happy, free man, then falling into despair after he is kidnapped and sold as a slave and ending as a scarred, yet free and probably relieved husband, father and grandfather, Chiwetel convincingly shows an enormous range of different emotions. The scene in which he tells Brad Pitt's character the story of the injustice he has been confronted with, gave me goosebumps. He truly deservedly won that BAFTA last sunday.

Eijofor isn't the most applauded actor of Slave's fantastic cast though. That most certainly is stunning d├ębutante Lupita N'yongo, who - as you probably know - already won loads of awards, including the SAG and Critic's Choice Award. With Jennifer Lawrence as stiff competition (she won the Golden Globe and BAFTA), she isn't the clear frontrunner though. And I see why. Her performance is fantastic and heartbreaking, but honestly I couldn't choose her over Jennifer or vice versa. However, Slave being the better film in my opinion gives Lupita a tiny lead over her colleague.

The film is a beautiful product of all of its ingredients. It looks great, the cast if fantastic, direction is spot on and the story is so incredibly cruel and interesting and important. I would say Chiwetel Eijofor is the shining star of this movie, although of course Nyong'o litterally and figuratively wins the most. She got a breakthrough many Yale alumni (being which is a dream in itself to me) can only dream of and a stack of awards to put on her mantle. Plus I am waiting for the moment she appears on he cover of Wintour's Vogue. That can't take too long anymore.

95/100

To conclude I will reveal my personal favourite for the best picture Oscar. Having now seen five of the nine nominees, I think I have some sort of overview. But it is clear that for me the choice is between Gravity and Slave. I loved Philomena and The Wolf of Wall Street and I liked (kind of) American Hustle, but these two made a serious impact. One mainly because of it's shockingly cruel story and the other because of the adventure. In the end I think I will go for the adventure though. Gravity was such a new experience and such a great achievement in film making, that I can't let that go unnoticed. That being said, if it sweeps the technical categories (which it most probably does) plus grabs the best director statue, totalling seven wins, I think it is kind of fair to let Slave win the most important price. It wouldn't be my choice though.

Have you seen this film? Then I would love to hear your opinions!

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