12 YEARS A SLAVE
Steve McQueen ( Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt and Paul Giamatti
OUR story, it is amazing,” a man says to Solomon Northup ( Chiwetel Ejiofor) towards the end of “and in no good way”.
The film is adapted from an 1850s autobiography by Northup, a successful African- American musician who was abducted in 1841 and sold as a slave, becoming the property of plantation owner Ford ( Benedict Cumberbatch).
Though he is what passes for a “decent” slave owner in this era – if there could be such a thing – Ford is powerless to stop one of his employees putting Solomon’s head in a noose.
Solomon has barely escaped the ordeal when he is plunged into another as Ford is obliged to sell him to cruel cotton farmer Epps ( Michael Fassbender), proud of his reputation for “breaking down the belligerent”.
Epps is as deranged as he is mercurial, and his icily disapproving wife ( Sarah Paulson) is hardly a steadying influence.
Though Solomon faces the full onslaught of Epps’ wrath on several occasions, so too will Patsey ( a stunning featured- acting debut from Lupita Nyong’o), a pretty young slave upon whom her owner is dangerously fixated.
It is no condemnation of to call it a film that has to be fully endured to be truly appreciated.
Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o and Chiwetel Ejiofor star in
Director Steve McQueen does not back away for a moment from the vast array of harsh realities depicted here. While the intensely graphic nature of some sequences means it is certainly not a work for the faint- hearted, it is always a work for anyone who has a heart.
All performances rise to the occasion demanded by such exacting subject matter.
Ejiofor leads from the front with a controlled, unfailingly credible reading of what Northup must have gone through.
A film as complex, compelling and confronting as this not only reignites a familiar sense of outrage about a shameful past. It also promotes a fresh understanding of that terrible time.
Minds will be opened, even changed, by what they see and feel. Best described as a love letter to modern- day Rome and its time- honoured track record of excess, this arrestingly opulent production is a hot favourite to win the next Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
Strolling aimlessly through the passing parade of prettiness is Italian author Jep Gambardella ( Toni Servillo). Though he hasn’t written anything of note in almost 40 years, Jep stays busy as only the idle rich can. The spirit of Fellini’s immortal masterpiece
pulses away strongly in the best scenes. Though some will be frustrated by the lack of direct story, most will forgive in gratitude for the overdose of pure splendour. GRUDGE MATCH ( M) A mesmerisingly dreadful comedy in which two ageing stars cash in on well- known roles.
Robert DeNiro and Sylvester Stallone play bitter ex- boxers coaxed back into the ring to settle a long- standing feud. If this movie was a championship bout, the crowd would be pelting fruit into the ring from the early rounds.
The big fight at the end is a grotesque fizzer, two old fogeys punching the heck out of each other in a less- than- convincing fashion.
It’s time someone locked DeNiro in a screening room and showed him the amazing work he once did. It’s also time to send Stallone back to the secret medical experiment from which he appears to have escaped. Anchorman 2 American Hustle August: Osage County The Book Thief Carrie Frozen One Chance Philomena Railway Man Saving Mr Banks The Wolf of Wall Street Walter Mitty 12 Years a Slave