12 Years A Slave (2014 dir. Steve McQueen)

Standard

Sandra’s Verdict

British director Steve McQueen does an excellent job adapting Solomon Northup’s 1853 biographical book 12 Years A Slave about his own experience when he was kidnapped and sold into slavery and sent to New Orleans. Northup, born a free man, lived in New York with his wife and two children, as an accomplished violinist he made his income playing society balls and as a carpenter, but was tricked by two white men and enticed to follow them to Washington to join a fictitious circus, whilst there they got him drunk, destroyed his identification documents and sold him to slave traders under the name of a southern slave called Platt Hamilton.

Chiwetel Ejiofor’s depiction of the conflicted Northup is captivating and heartbreaking as you see him forced to act against his conscience and I expect that he will be nominated for the Best Actor award at the Oscars in March. Likewise I expect Lupita Nyong’o to pick up the Rising Star BAFTA for her portrayal of the brutalised Patsey, the object of slavemaster Epp’s molestations. Fassbender, a McQueen favourite, is on form, as usual, as the cruel alcoholic Epps and Cumberbatch is equally good as the more forgiving but by no means less culpable Ford.

12 Years A Slave is the first Hollywood film to follow a slave narrative and I hope it has paved the way for more to follow. It is an absolute ‘must see’ for the insights, truths and contradictions that it presents. It would be a fully deserving winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture.

20140111-211356.jpg

Advertisements

Prometheus (2012 dir. Ridley Scott)

Standard

Sandra’s Verdict
Having been too young to fully appreciate the Alien movies first time around I was able to watch Prometheus without making constant caparisons to the first four films. So when the plot diverted slightly from the first film I didn’t feel cheated or that sacred ground was being trampled on. Although Prometheus has not been billed as a prequel to Alien many have been viewing it as such.

It is 2093 and a group of unconventional scientists and archeologists are sent to investigate the origins of humankind on a distant planet in their ship Prometheus, by Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the aged CEO of Weyland Corporations. When they get there they find a large construction made by what they think may be extra terrestrial. As they explore the structure they come across snake-like beings and begin to realise that the true purpose of their visit has not been fully disclosed to them.

The film is both Sci-Fi and Horror, with the characters making dubious decisions which isolate them and put them in vulnerable situations. There is also comedy to break the tension and Idris Elba’s one liners are brilliant as he taunts an uptight Meredith Vickers, played by Charlize Theron. There is some excellent acting in the film with Noomi Repace playing the invincible powerhouse Elizabeth Shaw with passion and grit. Michael Fassbender is also superb as the complicated android David.

As is expected the visuals are excellent and with CGI effects and imaginative set design the world on board Prometheus and in space are mesmerising. A lot happens during the film but the action is fast paced enough so that the 124 minute running time is barely noticeable.

As Hollywood blockbusters go this is probably one of the year’s best, having already made $147.7 million at the box office I think that this film will go on to smash records and draw a whole new generation of fans to the other Alien films. Prometheus is a definite hit which should not be missed!

Shame (2011 dir Steve McQueen)

Standard

Sandra’s Verdict 

There are a lot of bits in this film and I’m not talking about the narrative, in fact within the first 2 minutes of the film we get to see a completely nude Michael Fassbender and shortly after it is Carey Mulligan’s turn as McQueen introduces the strangely sexual relationship between the on-screen siblings.

Shame is a tense and emotionally charged British drama set in New York which portrays a few days in the life of the sex obsessed and emotionally dysfunctional professional Brandon Sullivan who can sleep with multiple prostitutes but not with women who he fancies. Cissy (Mulligan) and Brandon both seem to have a very odd relationship to sex and it is suggested, although not developed, that this may be due to a childhood of abuse.

The film contains a lot of graphic scenes designed to cause discomfort and pity for the main characters as they continuously press the self-destruct button.

This is an affecting film that shocks you initially but then draws you in. By the end of the film you are no longer repulsed but instead empathise with the unbalanced characters.