12 Years a Slave ★★★★½

2019 Catch Up Challenge (66/100)

I have a handful of problems with this film that I want to get off my chest before I praise it. I think the casting of some big name actors in small roles was a move that kept taking me out of the film. Dano, Giamatti and Pitt are all amazing actors, doing superb work here, I just kept feeling so consciously aware that it was a merry-go-round of brilliant white actors playing characters on a scale from quite a bastard to massive bastard to Michael Fassbender. Also, my copy of the film kept stopping and starting, needing me to take out the DVD a bunch of times. Not a slight against the film, more the USF DVD library but still, it hurt the immersion.

And so now I can lavish it with praise. What an absolutely stunning film. I'd compare watching it to what that torture scene in Audition must have felt like. That first needle is absolutely going to hurt but more and more needles keep going in and that pain only skyrockets with time. You think there is no more space for needles, nowhere the pain can go but down, at which point the film proves you wrong. I wish I had been watching a better copy of it to properly appreciate the world of the film, the cinematography and the score, but I am impressed. McQueen has made an Oscar-y film about slavery that is a genuinely non-exploitative work of art. It shocks me to say this, but I could see myself returning, to gaze at the awe of this work.