DONNIE BRASCO (1997)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 7 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for some Strong Graphic Violence, Pervasive Strong Language, brief Nudity and Sexuality

Directed by: Mike Newell

Written by: Paul Attanasio

(based on the book DONNIE BRASCO: MY UNDERCOVER LIFE IN THE MAFIA by Joseph D. Pistone)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby, Anne Heche, James Russo, Zeljko Ivanek, Gerry Becker, Andrew Parks, Robert Miano, Brian Tarantina, Rocco Sisto, Tim Blake Nelsen & Paul Giamatti

Based on an incredible true story, DONNIE BRASCO is a mafia movie that contains A-list talent, loads of suspense, and pretty much everything that fans of gangster cinema could ask for. This film was acclaimed during its 1997 theatrical run by both critics and audiences (making four times its budget back), and was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards. Though it doesn’t quite stack up to the pillar of Scorsese’s 90s gangster films (GOODFELLAS, CASINO), DONNIE BRASCO is a must-see for mob movie fans.

In a top-secret operation, FBI agent Joseph Pistone (Johnny Depp) has gone undercover as jewel thief “Donnie Brasco.” When “Donnie” attracts the attention of low-life enforcer Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggiero (Al Pacino), Joseph gains a position to take down one of the biggest crime families in the nation. This operation puts Joseph in a very dangerous spot as he’s forced to get down and dirty with these wiseguys, while constantly taking measures to maintain his cover. Soon enough, Joseph seems enraptured with his newfound criminal lifestyle…to a point where the FBI is concerned about his well-being and his wife (Anne Heche) realizes that he’s turning into “one of them.” Lots of suspense, mafia-related hijinks, and questionable morals follow as “Donnie” tries to complete his operation and escape with his life.

DONNIE BRASCO is different from other notable 90s gangster films because so much of it hinges on the Joseph’s undercover operation. There’s constant tension as the viewer wonders whether some blunder from a passing FBI agent or an unplanned event will unmask “Donnie’s” true identity. Even though we know that Pistone lived to write the memoir that inspired this film, DONNIE BRASCO keeps us on the edge of our seats. There’s something to be said about that quality alone. One intense moment comes early on as “Donnie” refuses to take his shoes off in a Japanese restaurant (because he has a wire hidden in his shoe)…only to result in a restaurant employee being beaten to a pulp. Another tense bit comes in “Donnie” being spotted by an air-headed coworker, while he’s standing right next to made-man “Sonny Black” (Michael Madsen). Small moments like these add even more danger to the proceedings.

As for the mafia material, DONNIE BRASCO carefully sets up details about the inner workings of the crime family. We learn what certain terms mean (“a friend of mine” or “a friend of ours”) and the signs that someone is about to get whacked (when you get “sent for”). These details are explained to the audience (as Pacino’s “Lefty” reveals them to Depp’s “Donnie”) and then pop up in the proceedings throughout. There are tense rivalries that make their way into the plot, while a few factual details have been switched up to provide a more tragic conclusion (though the real-life ending to this tale was bittersweet). Don’t expect loads of gun fights and blood, but DONNIE has its violent spots. One notable set piece comes in a shocking, though oddly satisfying execution sequence.

Despite the mafia driving this story forward, DONNIE BRASCO is at its most powerful when it examines the relationship between “Donnie” and “Lefty.” This plot element is beautifully executed as Johnny Depp and Al Pacino show wonderful chemistry on the screen. Depp’s “Donnie” is a convincing gangster and the way he snaps at the FBI (who almost get him killed on numerous occasions) causes the viewer to sympathize with him. Though he’s more famous for playing two iconic gangsters (Michael Corleone in THE GODFATHER and Tony Montana in SCARFACE), Al Pacino disappears into his role as “Lefty.” Pacino turns this cold-blooded contract killer into a somewhat tragic figure, who shows a nice side to “Donnie” and becomes his best friend.

Though DONNIE BRASCO nails most of its material and builds a strong relationship between Pacino and Depp’s characters, the film slightly drops the ball in two areas. The first of these is the passage of time in the story. The real life “Donnie Brasco” operation took place over the course of six years and the film neglects to fill us in on these dates. It’s not necessarily crucial to the story, but it felt like this film’s plot took place over the course of a year (tops)…which was probably not the case at all.

The second area where DONNIE BRASCO has problems is the turbulent relationship between Joseph and his worried wife. I felt like this entire subplot was a little too scattered. During one scene, Joseph’s wife is telling him how much she hates him and goes as far as to change their home number so he can’t call his kids. Then a few scenes later, she’s sympathetic towards his plight and madly in love with him for no apparent reason. It felt like a few scenes were deleted between this character’s shift into concern. This messy subplot neuters the would-be emotional impact of Joseph’s final family scenes.

Despite a couple of nagging narrative flaws, DONNIE BRASCO is a fantastic film that’s sure to sink its hooks into fans of gangster stories. The performances from Al Pacino and Johnny Depp warrant a watch by themselves, besides the stellar turn from Michael Madsen as an underdog mob boss. This film is unlike many of the mafia movies I’ve sat through, due to its strong focus on a heartfelt relationship between two very unlikely friends and a constant air of suspense from the undercover operation. If this sounds up your alley, then I highly recommend checking out DONNIE BRASCO!

Grade: A-

SIDEWAYS (2004)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 6 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Language, some Strong Sexual Content and Nudity

Sideways poster

Directed by: Alexander Payne

Written by: Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor

(based on the novel SIDEWAYS by Rex Pickett)

Starring: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen & Sandra Oh

Alexander Payne has a very distinct style to his work. His films usually offer strong characters worth emotionally investing in and leave the viewer laughing or crying or both. There’s something about his serene sense of honest human emotion that manages to capture a realistic slice of life on the screen. That’s definitely the appeal for some people and may cause others to steer clear. I found myself split almost down the middle on my opinion of the hugely acclaimed, award-winning SIDEWAYS while watching it. By the time the credits began roll, I understood why this movie is so beloved. Aside from some minor pacing issues, SIDEWAYS is pretty much the perfect combination of heartfelt drama and charming comedy.

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Miles Raymond is a deeply depressed writer struggling to get his first novel published. In addition to this character trait, Miles is also a huge fan of wine, a middle-school English teacher, recently divorced, and an alcoholic. Life might be looking up when he goes on a week-long trip through wine country with his soon-to-be-married best friend, Jack Cole. The two of them meet up with two fellow wine-loving women. Reluctant Miles finds himself falling for a waitress named Maya, while Jack is more than a little eager to cheat on his fiancé. Needless to say that both newfound relationships have their rocky points and the pair of friends wind up in hijinks aided by wine.

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It should come as no surprise that characters are extremely important in a movie mainly centered around conversations and relationships. SIDEWAYS excels in bringing to life a group of people who feel too real for the screen. Thomas Haden Church plays the two-timing asshole Jack, but he’s not a one-dimensional scumbag. Jack seems to really care about Miles and tries his best to cheer him up throughout the film (albeit, most attempts backfire). Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen are convincing as gals who could be on the lookout for love. The best performance comes in Paul Giamatti’s stellar Miles though. This is easily the most realistic portrayal of someone suffering from Depression that I’ve ever seen in any film. Miles may fly off the handles and cope with his problems in a damaging way (getting drunk seems to be his solution to everything), but he’s totally relatable to most people going through a severe rough patch in their lives. There’s something instantly likable about him, aided by some of the better comic relief moments throughout.

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This may seem odd, but I think SIDEWAYS almost comes off as a more dramatic feature-length episode of SEINFIELD. That’s not mean to be a disparaging remark in the slightest. There isn’t really a story to be had. The plot is that these two friends go on a trip through wine country and meet some gals. There’s almost a quasi-sitcom like structure to be found within the film. It’s a film that’s technically about nothing, but winds up being emotionally about everything. The banter between Miles and Jack are mainly of the comedic variety, while Miles interactions with Maya lean heavily on the dramatic side of things. There are moments in SIDEWAYS where the film almost seems to lose focus, but then another scene or conversation comes along that snapped me right back into the film. The last 30 minutes or so of this movie are absolutely stellar containing the funniest scene of the entire film and an ending that hit my deepest emotions.

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For a film that boils down to a group of friends tasting wine and talking with each other, SIDEWAYS packs a lot of emotion and humor. This is definitely a dramedy that starts off as a comedy, strikes a balance between the serious and funny scenes before ending on heartfelt drama. Paul Giamatti’s performance alone makes this film worth viewing. Add in witty dialogue, other smartly written characters (Thomas Haden Church is great as well), and a powerhouse final third, then you’ve got yourself a winner. SIDEWAYS does have a couple of small pacing issues, but there’s something so honest and touching about this film that I couldn’t help but love it! Like a fine wine, SIDEWAYS will only get better with age.

Grade: A

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (2014)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 22 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sequences of Sci-Fi Action/Violence

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Directed by: Marc Webb

Written by: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci & Jeff Pinkner

(based on the SPIDER-MAN comics by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko)

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Chris Cooper, Martin Csokas, B.J. Novak, Martin Sheen, Chris Zylka, Denis Leary & Felicity Jones

Sony’s questionable decision to reboot SPIDER-MAN wound up in the 2012’s mixed bag THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. I appreciated that the reboot was attempting to take things in a more serious direction, but the tone was schizophrenic to say the least. The first half of the film and the second half didn’t mesh well at all, not to mention that the Lizard was a poorly constructed villain. It’s two years later and 2014’s summer movie season is kicking off with THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2. Though the general consensus from critics has been slightly lower than that for the 2012 installment, I found this sequel to one-up its predecessor in every possible way. There’s a more cohesive story being told. The villains are far better developed and the viewer is given reasons to feel for Peter Parker’s struggles. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a solid kickoff for Summer 2014 and a sequel that could ultimately shape this new series into being one of the better superhero sagas out there.

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Peter Parker has just graduated from high school and his relationship with Gwen Stacy is on shaky ground. Peter made a promise to her dying father that he would keep Gwen out of his life, due to the risk that comes with his crime-fighting. Naturally, Gwen is sick of their on-again-off-again status and breaks up with Peter, which gives him a whole lot of mixed emotions. Meanwhile, an old childhood friend (Harry Osborne) has returned to town and has taken a special interest in the web-slinging Spider-Man. To make matters even more dangerous, a new villain has been (accidentally) created. This glowing baddie is named Electro and has bad feelings towards Spider-Man. Peter Parker must choose where he wants to stand with Gwen, all while battling the electrifying Electro and another emerging menace found in the mentally unstable Harry Osborne.

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I doubt a Spider-Man film will ever be completely serious. The material doesn’t lend itself well to being a dark gritty tale like THE DARK KNIGHT. It can result in a good popcorn flick that will thrill audiences of every age. That’s squarely where THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 falls. Spider-Man does have his usual sense of humor (which I found a lot more enjoyable this time around) and there are comedy relief scenes. Most don’t stick out like a sore thumb (as they did in the 2012 film) and actually lend themselves to the story being told. One example of this comes in Peter Parker stalling a few henchmen in a hallway. The tone is serious enough to create a lurking sense of danger for both Peter and those around him.

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With a total of three villains presented in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, one might assume that it would suffer from the same overcrowding that killed SPIDER-MAN 3 (though that film also had many other problems contributing to its terrible quality). Rhino only appears for a total of about 5 minutes. Ironically, he was the villain I was looking most forward to seeing in action. I’m sure he’ll be back for some sequels, because Paul Giamatti is clearly having a blast as this Russian-accented thug. Electro and Green Goblin are the centerpiece bad guys of the story. I wasn’t looking forward to seeing Electro (he’s one of the lesser villains in my eyes), but Jamie Foxx did a competent job playing him. The special effects are pretty good, but he does get cartoony in the big showdown (going as far as to play a dubstep version of the Itsy Bitsy Spider).

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Finally on the evil side of things, there’s Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborne/Green Goblin. We’ve seen this villain before portrayed by both William Dafoe and James Franco. Let it be known that I consider DeHaan’s Goblin to be far superior to either of the previous incarnations seen in Raimi’s trilogy. The motivations driving what eventually becomes Spider-Man’s biggest nemesis make complete sense and I loved where they went with Harry’s turn into the psychotic Goblin. The molding of this character contained some of the best scenes in the entire film, though this isn’t to discredit the competent handling of Electro as well.

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As to be expected Andrew Garfield has become a lot more comfortable in the skin of Peter Parker and the suit of Spider-Man. He inhabits the character fully this time around. Emma Stone has great chemistry with him and the complicated relationship is done in a fashion that’s worth paying attention to. This didn’t feel like filler in the slightest, but an integral piece of the story. Some ballsy moves are made near the end that might propel the entire franchise into a brand new world for the web-slinger (there is serious build up for the Sinister Six, which have been announced to appear in a future film).

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The noticeable irks came in some silly looking effects (near video game graphics) in the final showdown between Spidey and Electro. There are a couple of eye-rolling moments in some failed comedy relief, but only a handful this time around. I didn’t completely believe how pieces of the mystery around Peter’s absent parents were revealed. One of the most ridiculous scenes of exposition is featured in an entirely unnecessary stretch that felt like the filmmakers were trying to cram a little too much into this sequel. However, these flaws can be easily forgiven due to just how good everything else winds up being.

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THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 does what many (including myself) weren’t quite expecting. It’s a superhero movie that mixes realistic teenage angst into the traditional comic book formula and does it very well. The villains were far better than the schlocky Lizard. There was clearly more heart/creativity thrown into this sequel and its way more exciting/interesting than the 2012 reboot. This is solid superhero entertainment. Will it be the best comic book movie of the year? Not even close (CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER is leagues better than this), but it’s a highly enjoyable ride! Well worth the price of admission!

Grade: B

Derrick Carter’s Top 10 Films of 2013

List by Derrick Carter

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Trance, Ender’s Game, Simon Killer, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, Rush, Captain Phillips, Stoker, and Side Effects

10. Dallas Buyers Club

10. DALLAS BUYERS CLUB: This film may not be entirely true to the events that it’s based on, but DALLAS BUYERS CLUB is the kind of the movie that makes you re-evaluate just how you’re living your life once the end credits have begun to roll. Matthew McCounaghey and Jared Leto give two of the most heartfelt performances of the year. It’s not a movie that you’ll want to watch on repeat (mainly due to the fact that it’s a film about a man fighting an incurable disease and the war the FDA launches on him), but it’s certainly a powerful one. This is a movie that drained me emotionally by the end of the film, because I was feeling the same frustration at the injustice of how the characters were being treated. Excellent film and I’ll be surprised if both Leto and McCounaghey don’t get Oscar nods.

9. Maniac

9. MANIAC: 2013 was a fantastic year for cinema, but it was a bit of a pathetic year for the horror genre. The best wide-released horror flick was YOU’RE NEXT (which is missing from this list and isn’t even in my Honorable Mentions). There’s always independent and foreign horror to satiate the need to be frightened. MANIAC is a remake that outdoes the original in every conceivable way, whilst also adding the element of seeing the entire film literally through the eyes of a serial killer. What could have wound up being a cheap gimmick becomes a wholly disturbing and chilling experience that will leave you struggling to get a good night’s sleep for a long time after.

8. Place Beyond The Pines

8. THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES: There are gripping stories, moments that shock you, and conclusions that leave you emotionally devastated. THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES contains all of the above in a narrative that could be seen as almost an anthology format. It’s a story that follows three different characters that are forever shaped by the choices of someone else. Tragedy is one of the most accurate words I can pick when describing this film. Also, it should be noted that the final moments of the film (fueled with a haunting score) had me crying like the first time I saw AMERICAN HISTORY X.

7. Frozen

7. FROZEN: It seems like ever since Disney switched to the computer animation format, they lost the spark of what made their former efforts so magical. Gone were the musical numbers. The sense of timeless fairy tales seemed to be replaced with potty humor and pop-culture references. Recent films like TANGLED and PRINCESS AND THE FROG tried to recapture that flame that gave Disney films like THE LION KING and BEAUTY & THE BEAST. Somehow, against all odds, FROZEN winds up being the best Disney film in about two full decades. The songs are catchy and have stuck with me since my viewing experience. The script also gives memorable characters, while mocking certain Disney clichés and delivering a timeless, wonderful tale. FROZEN is truly something special!

6. American Hustle

6. AMERICAN HUSTLE: Capturing the essence of the 70’s from set designs, costumes, a very cool soundtrack, and Bradley Cooper’s unforgettable perm, AMERICAN HUSTLE told an intense and very entertaining crime story without ever delving into the ultra-violence that the subgenre usually contains. It was a bold move on the part of David O. Russell, but he’s crafted a fantastic film that let the A-list cast run loose and wild to my delight. This is a movie about people double-crossing each other and by the time everything begins hitting the fan, it’s unlikely that you guessed much of what was in store for you as a viewer (including one very neat cameo).

5. Gravity

5. GRAVITY: You can’t get much more epic than the setting of space itself and that’s exactly the canvas that director/writer Alfonso Cuaron (who held off on directing this film until technology was advanced enough to get across his vision) uses for this tale of survival. It’s spectacle, but cinema comes in many forms. It’s not all about important statements, human drama, character studies, or entertainment. Sometimes, a film just needs to be a ride and this is what GRAVITY was. A huge roller-coaster of a movie and I enjoyed it as such. It’s been a tad overhyped at this point, but GRAVITY still remains on my top 10 of 2013!

4. Worlds End

4. THE WORLD’S END: The final part of the “Cornetto” trilogy (also consisting of SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ) is my favorite of the comedic trifecta. Some human drama is thrown into this sci-fi comedy which makes for some unexpectedly emotional moments (much like in SHAUN), which in turn make the laughs that much more heartier. Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright have closed off their so-called trilogy in grand style and though it’s sad to see it come to a close, I can’t imagine a better way to conclude the so-called Three Flavors Cornetto trilogy. Jokes are brilliantly set up in advance and the chemistry between the cast is so convincing and enjoyable to watch that you may even forget there are robots that show up later on (I certainly did).

3. Prisoners

3. PRISONERS: Few movies have ever made me as uncomfortable as this one did. I was uneasy for the entire running time and for good reason, PRISONERS quietly builds suspense and keeps itself one step ahead of the audience. It’s unflinching in its violence, but also shows restraint when it needs to. Some of the more shocking moments in the film come as to what’s implied rather to what’s shoved into the viewer’s face. This script was supposedly passed around from many directors and tons of different casting choices. The end result is so flawless that it makes one wonder if how it even would have stood a chance with anybody else involved. Heartbreaking, intense and concluding in the most provocative way possible. PRISONERS is the best thriller I’ve seen since Fincher’s GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO.

2. Wolf Of Wall Street

2. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET: Give Leo the award. Just give Leo the award already! The man is proving himself to be a chameleon of acting (in the same way Gary Oldman is). In THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, Leonardo DiCaprio skillfully slips into the skin of drug addicted, sex addicted, all-around rich scumbag Jordan Belfort. Far from an unpleasant watch, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is easily the most entertaining film I’ve seen in all of 2013. I haven’t laughed harder at a movie all year (the scene involving Leo and Jonah Hill high on Quaaludes is one of the funniest movie scenes I’ve ever seen in my life). The three-hour running time seems to rush right past, showing the best pacing I’ve seen in a movie this length. Overall, just see it. I loved this movie and it’s one that I plan on buying the moment it hits home video!

1. 12 Years A Slave

1. 12 YEARS A SLAVE: It’s pretty surprising that there’s never been a proper film depicting the horrors of slavery until 2013 (ROOTS doesn’t count). This is a heartbreaking movie that tore my emotions apart and had myself (along with a sold-out movie theater) crying heavily during multiple points in the film. 12 YEARS A SLAVE is the kind of film that you never forget once you’ve seen it. It will stick with you and I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes required viewing during History classes for its unflinchingly realistic look on the dark stain in American history. The acting from everyone is top-notch, as is every single aspect with this film. I can’t say that I enjoyed this movie at all, because it’s not made to be enjoyed. It does show one man’s struggle to retain his humanity and survive a 12-year-long period in slavery. Hard to watch, but ultimately rewarding in many ways, 12 YEARS A SLAVE is a masterpiece through and through!

12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 14 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Violence/Cruelty, Some Nudity and Brief Sexuality

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Directed by: Steve McQueen

Written by: John Ridley

(based on the book 12 YEARS A SLAVE by Solomon Northup)

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Garrett Dillahunt, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong’O, Sarah Paulson & Brad Pitt

It’s so easy to overlook the past and pretend that atrocities didn’t happen. Some people say that slavery has been overdone in films, but those who don’t learn from the history are doomed to repeat it. Slavery was an abomination and it sickens me to no end to think that it occurred less than two centuries ago. This was a dark, scary piece of American history. This was a period of time where certain people weren’t considered to be human, based solely on the color of their skin. To make matters even worse, no one was safe from this horrible crime against humanity. It gave cruel plantation owners an excuse to be dehumanize others. 12 YEARS A SLAVE is an unflinching, disturbingly realistic film that is based on a true story that took place before the Civil War, when slavery was at its peak.

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Solomon Northup is a free black man living in upstate New York. Upon meeting some gentlemen, Solomon agrees to travel with them in the hopes of making some extra cash to support his family (a wife, a son, and a daughter). It is in Washington, D.C. that Solomon is deceived. Waking up in chains, Solomon has been kidnapped and sold into slavery. Given a new name and a fake past, Solomon does what he must to endure and survive this terrible ordeal. With prejudice and potential death lurking around every corner, Solomon serves 12 years that are split between two very different plantations. One is run by a Baptist preacher (Benedict Cumberbach from STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS), while the other is run by a cruel drunk of a man (played by Michael Fassbender) and his equally cruel wife (played by Sarah Paulson).

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12 YEARS A SLAVE wisely shows roughly two title cards explaining what the time and place is. This decision pretty much throws us into the disoriented world with Solomon as he struggles to find some footing and retain some of his dignity, along with his life. Early on in the movie, a fellow slave says to Solomon that if he wants to survive, he should try not to stand out. Later on, resigning to his current predicament, Solomon tells a grieving mother (separated from her children) that he doesn’t want to survive, he wants to live. Determined not to let grief and despair get the best of him, Solomon does what he is asked and also finds the courage to stand up when something completely unfair is occurring.

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The production values of the movie are top-notch and the A-list names add even more talent to display. This is Michael Fassbender’s most frightening performance and Benedict Cumberbatch is a marvel as a slave-owner with a touch of kindness. Paul Dano is despicable as an obnoxious carpenter, using the idea of slavery to further his own power-hungry ego. Paul Giamatti and Brad Pitt aren’t in the movie for too long, but when they are they stand out as characters unlike any they’ve played before.

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The real show-stopper is the relatively unknown Chiwetel Ejiofor (who has been in many other films, but isn’t a standout face). It was a smart move for director Steve McQueen (who also directed SHAME and HUNGER) to cast an unfamiliar face in the role of Solomon Northup. If it had been a blockbuster actor like Will Smith, things could have easily gone downhill and become cheesy. Ejiofor gives a performance that feels real and being thrown into his position, we genuinely feel for his actions and understand his motivation to keep moving on and his fear to disclose his true identity to anyone, for fear of repercussions. We never leave Solomon’s side at any point in the movie. This is the struggle of one man through a dark period of inhumane history.

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The film is hard to watch and brutally real, but the experience is a rewarding one. It’s a history lesson that bears repeating over and over. Steve McQueen is not afraid to transport us back to the dark times of slavery and never once does he restrain from any of the honest tragedy of the entire situation. It’s unflinching, heartbreaking, and incredibly moving. Expect to emotional for a long time after the credits have rolled. 12 YEARS A SLAVE is a modern classic, if there ever was one.

Grade: A+

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