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Telluride Review: Steve McQueen's '12 Years A Slave' Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender & More

The Playlist By Chris Willman | The Playlist August 31, 2013 at 10:55AM

Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” instantly establishes itself as the most unflinching of all slave dramas, which is to say, there is plenty of flinching, not to mention cowering and recoiling and passing out, thanks to beatings and whippings that arrive at roughly 10-to-15-minute intervals throughout a 133-minute running time. “Amistad,” meet the Marquis de Sade, in the form of slavemaster Michael Fassbender, who puts his victims through more tortures than Mel Gibson ever could have imagined for Jesus.
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12 Years A Slave

Variety: "The first thing fans of McQueen’s 'Hunger' and 'Shame' will notice here is the degree to which the helmer’s austere formal technique has evolved — to the extent that one would almost swear he’d snuck off and made three or four films in the interim. Composition, sound design and story all cut together beautifully, and yet, there’s no question that '12 Years a Slave' remains an art film, especially as the provocative director forces audiences to confront concepts and scenes that could conceivably transform their worldview."

HitFix: " '12 Years' is a powerful drama driven by McQueen's bold direction and the finest performance of Chiwetel Ejiofor's career."

FirstShowing: "Phenomenal. A profound cinematic achievement on every level. Filmmaking at its finest. Chiwetel for Oscar. It's his."

Hollywood Elsewhere: "Sad & ghastly as the story is, '12 Years A Slave' is a humanist masterpiece & a slamdunk Best Picture contender right out of the gate."

Washington Post: "12 YEARS A SLAVE = Masterful rendering of intolerable cruelty. Standing O for McQ, Ejiofor, Pitt, Fass & stunning Lupita Nyong'o."

Awards Daily: "Another powerful collaboration for McQueen and Fassbender. They make magic together."

The Guardian: "12 YEARS A SLAVE (A-) is neo-brutalist, compassionate stunner, more Haneke than Hollywood, stand-outs from Fassbender, Ejiofor, and Nyong'o"

Indiewire: "More than a powerful elegy, '12 Years a Slave' is a mesmerizing triumph of art and polemics: McQueen turns a topic rendered distant by history into an experience that, short of living through the terrible era it depicts, makes you feel as if you've been there."

This article is related to: 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, Reviews, Review, Telluride Film Festival


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