London Film Festival Review: 12 Years a Slave
21st October 2013
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★★★☆☆It's a bit of an odd one, this. Billed by some critics as the greatest thing since oxygen (well, not quite, but opinion is riding pretty high), Steve McQueen's follow up to his two interesting but strangely opaque films Hunger and Shame is...well, strangely opaque. Maybe it's just me, but I have to say that, while it's heart is in the right place and it contains some exceptional performances, I found 12 Years A Slave quite hard work, and not in an entirely good way. The strange thing is, it's probably McQueen's most accessible film. The modern artists's debut work, Hunger, featured an amazing performance by Michael Fassbender (who co-stars here as a deranged slave-owner) but often felt like an art-installation rather than a dramatic feature film. Shame hobbled closer to narrative stability, but it's extreme and often disturbing depiction of sex addiction may have been hard to swallow by some. In some respects, the hard-to-swallow aspect remains here, with gruelling depictions of the abuse of slaves at he hands of their sadistic "superiors". But the story structure is closer to a Hollywood movie (it is indeed backed by Regency, the studio who has made, among others, Marley & Me and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel). But funding politics aside, Steve McQueen's visual style shines through. Though slightly tamed, his photographic poetry has not been stifled and there is a rich, wondrous feel to much of the movie that makes it worth watching.
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