MONDAY MOVIES: Hell on earth

Aside from its honesty, the great triumph of Slave are the performances.

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave.

Notwithstanding Quentin Taratino’s morally dubious contribution via Django Unchained a year ago, Hollywood has a feeble track record when it comes to exploring the revolting history of slavery in America. Interestingly, it has taken a British director (Steve McQueen, Hunger) to deliver a clear-eyed look at a racist abomination that almost defies modern belief.

Based on the real-life memoirs of Solomon Northup, a so-called free black man who lived in New York, 12 Years A Slave begins in 1841 with his abduction and transport to Louisiana, where he is sold into slavery and endures spiritual and physical torments made so much worse by memories of his previous life (the randomness of the injustice makes it easier for audience members to identify with Solomon’s horrifying plight). I’ll spare you descriptions of the beatings and humiliations visited upon the wretched victims, only saying that McQueen portrays them unflinchingly but not excessively. He is interested in the entire culture of slavery, from the physical toil of picking cotton to the perverse relations between bible-quoting plantation owners and their slaves; and McQueen makes the point that many whites succumbed to beastliness and self-loathing, while the blacks could often endure storms of terror and brutality and retain their humanity.

Aside from its honesty, the great triumph of Slave are the performances. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things) has always had star power, but his portrayal of Northup is astonishing (as they bury a slave who was worked to death and the burial party begins to sing a spiritual, Ejiofor’s face struggles with anger and a myriad of emotions before surrendering to the moment – it’s a haunting tour de force of acting). Michael Fassbender is terrifying as a slave master with a well-deserved reputation for brutality, and Benedict Cumberbatch is even more compelling as a conflicted plantation owner who reluctantly participates in the slavery system but is too gutless to take a moral stand. Although this is an important film moreso than a great one, expect lots of Oscar nominations come January.

12 Years a slave ****

Stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender

Directed by Steve McQueen

COMING SOON:

The Monuments Men

George Clooney directs this fascinating, true-life story about a Second World War platoon of American soldiers responsible for rescuing art masterpieces looted by Nazi thieves. With Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett and Bill Murray.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence returns for part two of the epic sci-fi saga about Katniss Everdeen, the plucky heroine confronting a dystopian future world where selected young warriors fight to the death.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Gifted comic Will Ferrell returns to the screen as Ron Burgundy, the deluded 1970s-era newsman who is a legend in his own mind. With Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The theatres will be overflowing with dwarves and hobbits as Bilbo and Gandalf prepare to confront that terrifying dragon, Smaug.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller directs himself in an adaptation of the famed James Thurber tale about a meek and drab day-dreamer who escapes into a fantasy world where he becomes a heroic man of action.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre to host a trio of acts

Aaron Pritchett, Alex Cuba and Valdy will each play four shows

Pacific Opera takes music to the streets

Artists travel around Capital Region District this summer for live performences

SKAMpede goes live in July

Beloved annual event returns with changes, pre-registration online

Victoria Flamenco Festival goes virtual for 2020 event

The show will go online from July 23 to 26

Campbell River teen produces quarantine musical

Ryver Santos Cegnar performed for friends and family over Facebook

Nanaimo Art Gallery summer camp moves programming online due to COVID-19

Teenage artists have until the end of next week to apply to Dazzle Camouflage

Symphony pop-up concerts coming to central Vancouver Island

Only 40 tickets available for each Vancouver Island Symphony private backyard show

Courtenay theatre gets support for livestream ‘hybrid’ shows this year

Island Coastal Economic Trust funds help Sid Williams Theatre with infrastructure, training

Virtual film industry career fair offers chance to talk with the experts

Experts in 11 different departments, three film union representative will be in attendance

Victoria Classic Boat Festival cancelled due to safety concerns

Organizers say Inner Harbour doesn’t provide enough space for physical distancing

Infringing festival finds a way to dance during pandemic

Nanaimo’s Crimson Coast Dance Society holding drive-in, micro and physically distanced events

Coastal scenes at the forefront for July shows at Victoria galleries

From sculpture to landscape paintings, summer art is about nature

Most Read