peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2014 02 11 12YearsASlave

12 Years a Slave

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At the dear old unrenovated Chauvel, Cinema 2, 9:10pm session. There were more people there than I expected; perhaps ten total. The floors remain uneven, and the coffee the girl at the bar made for me kept me awake past midnight. Or perhaps it was the movie that did that.

Unlike Shame, this is essential Steve McQueen. I found it unflinching but less brutal than I'd been led to expect, which is not to say I wasn't unsettled. His cinematography is as beautiful as ever, and the acting is solid, especially Chiwetel Ejiofor. I didn't think Fassbender was too far over the top, though his character was pretty flat. (Brad Pitt's had a similar two dimensionality but was far easier to sympathise with, being Canadian and all.) Benedict Cumberbatch is fine, as is Paul Giamatti as the prissy slave trader. Alfre Woodard is the Queen Slave, made good, sold out. There's not much to the plot, this being a series of set pieces about becoming and being in a state of slavery.

Rated #99 in IMDB's top-250 today. I didn't read any reviews before I went in. Dana Stevens is on the money. Michael Wood at the London Review of Books is right to observe that the movie would have been strengthened by McQueen toning down Fassbender's character. Manohla Dargis's commentary is thoughtful. David Denby reviewed it for the New Yorker.

That about wraps it up for this brief Hollywood renaissance. I hope there is more to Dallas Buyers Club than we saw in the trailer.