Film review: 12 Years a Slave

“My bed is too holy for you to share”


So this evening I got the chance to see 12 Years a Slave, and I have to say I feel a little disappointed by it. I don’t know what it was. I think because it’s being paired with Gravity for one of the best films of 2013, that I had really high expectations for it. After being thoroughly impressed with Gravity, and what I consider to be one of the best films I’ve ever seen, I’m gonna be a bit bias. So I’m trying to approach this review with neutrality, and mark 12 Years on it’s own individual merits. Obviously they are two wildly different films, and so match each other in quality in other areas.

First of, I didn’t connect to 12 Years a Slave emotionally, at all. I don’t know why, should I feel ashamed by that? does that make me a bad person? I know what happened on-screen is a true reflection of what happened in real life to Solomon Northup and countless other black people over the course of many many years. But there was nothing from me, no tears, no fidgeting or uncomfortable leg movements. I was unfazed.


“I will never look at slavery the same way again” – Amy Poehler at the Golden Globes. That may sound like a stupid thing to say, given that we all should know what slavery was and still continues to be, but Poehler’s correct. 12 Years does a fantastic job of reminding us just what they went through. It’s truly horrific. Slavery is something I will NEVER understand, Black racism is something I will NEVER understand. In fact any type of prejudice or racism is something I will never understand.

How…… how did we let this happen?! Why did we ever think it was right?! HOW HOW HOW HOW HOW?!? How did we ever come to believe torturing people of a different skin colour to do our work was ethical? It is entirely unfathomable to me. I don’t understand it.

Our right to be called humanity is lost when we destroy humans. Vice versa.

12 Years A Slave

I suppose since the film has provoked such a strong reaction in me, that it’s served part of its purpose. Overall, I just don’t care too much for the film. Having watched Passion of the Christ all those years ago I expected the worst for the tortures scenes. I had prepared myself mentally for it. I’m not implying their suffering is less significant, just that it didn’t make me flinch.
I wasn’t a fan of the pace of the film, nor the editing. It went back and forth a few times, which threw me off. I felt like scenes were being repeated, but in alternate ways. There wasn’t any context or sense of time.
I also presumed tall benchmarks for the quality of acting overall. I thought Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson and Chiwetel Ejiofor were fantastic. Particularly impressed with Fassbender. Lupita Nyong’o has been picking up some awards for her performance, but if I’m quite honest, after having actually watched the film, I don’t really understand why. She had a few small scenes where she shone brightly, but not nearly enough screen time to warrant winning over Julia Roberts in August: Osage County.

What I did love about 12 Years was the cinematography, screenplay and the direction. There were quite a few memorable moments of beautiful imagery. A great array of colours only made possible by the transition of the sun. Wind buffeting dead looking trees, the camera gliding over water displaying the reflections of all kinds of life. Each of those scenes gave you time to breath and prepare.

It is undoubtably a well-made film, but to me personally it falls short of being a masterpiece in quite a few areas.



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