Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

12 Years A Slave (2013)

Image rights belong to Fox Searchlight Pictures, Entertainment One, Regency Enterprises, River Road Entertainment, Plan B, New Regency, Film4
Image is property of Fox Searchlight Pictures, Entertainment One, Regency Enterprises, River Road Entertainment, Plan B, New Regency, Film4

12 Years A Slave – Film Review

Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulsen, Lupita Nyong’o, Paul Dano, Paul Giamtatti, Brad Pitt

Director: Steve McQueen

Synopsis:  The extraordinary true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man in the United States who is one day deceived, abducted and sold into slavery, facing the remaining years of his life in captivity.

Review: The slave trade is a dark part of the history of the United States and rarely, if ever, has a film captured the sheer brutality and injustices that existed within this vile trade. Previous films have glossed over these details. However,  in this heartbreaking true story, it absolutely does not hold back in showing to the audience the horrific hardships and cruelty that people endured as a result of this barbaric business.

Director Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame) along with an adapted screenplay from Solomon Northup’s memoirs by John Ridley, gives us a moving and powerful telling of the story of one man’s struggles against slavery that went on for more than a decade. Solomon Northup, a talented violinist who when offered work in Washington DC, is tricked and sold into slavery.  McQueen does not deceive the audience by sugar-coating the situation. He shows the horrendous treatment that Northup received once he had been sold into slavery. Locked in a tiny cell, in chains, intense whippings, and made to work for long hours by malicious and evil people that took great pleasure in beating these people up. Furthermore, the terrible abuse and hardships that these people suffered at the hands of slave owners has rarely been put onto the big screen. There is no hiding from the situation, it is in your face and it reminds you from a very early point in the film that this trade was monstrous and brutal and even now, it still leaves its mark on the people of the USA in particular.

The acting on offer here is among the best acting to appear on the big screen in 2013. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a fantastic performance as Solomon Northup. In the early scenes, he is a man who is free to do as he pleases, but then he wrongly becomes a captive man. His body language once he has been captured breaks your heart as it displays a man who is broken, devastated by the fact that he has lost his freedom. From a mere  look in his eyes, he is a man who despairs  in the fact that he is more than likely to be a slave until his death. Michael Fassbender collaborated with McQueen in both of his previous films. He appears here as the malicious slave owner Edwin Epps. A man who believes it is his right to beat and torture his slaves as he believes they are his “property.”

There is no restraint on his part and he viciously takes it out on slaves who dare to defy him. Patsey, played by newcomer Lupita Nyong’o is one of those slaves who feels the full force of Epps’ cruelty. Everyone in the film was phenomenal but Fassbender, Ejiofor and Nyong’o were the stand-out performances and all three have landed Oscar nominations in the Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress categories, and all deservedly so.

When watching this film, some may draw comparisons between this and Django UnchainedWhile it can be argued that Epps is like Calvin Candie from Django Unchained, Epps is a far more realistic representation of a slave owner.  Django Unchained was undoubtedly a very enjoyable film. However, it used slavery as a backdrop to give a signature Tarantino style story about vengeance, filled with dramatic violence. It did really illustrate story of  the brutality of slavery, certainly not to the level that McQueen does.

On the other hand, 12 Years A Slave is a hard-hitting, disturbing story. It captures the awful situation that many black people found themselves in during this period, and really illustrates the brutal nature of this business. This film has a great chance of winning some Oscars this March, with a total of nine nominations and it deserves every one. It is being tipped by many to win this year’s coveted Best Picture Oscar.  It is a film that should be shown to every pupil learning about slavery in school and a film for everyone to remind them of the inhumane slave trade. It is by no means an easy watch and some scenes are particularly horrific in nature. Nevertheless, it is a very moving and very powerful film that will have you thinking about it for a long time once you have finished watching it.

The film is dark, and is not a pleasant watch for sure, but the brilliant acting and emotional story make it a must see.

a

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)

Image rights belong to Pathe, Videovision Entertainment, Distant Horizon, Origin Pictures
Image rights belong to Pathe, Videovision Entertainment, Distant Horizon, Origin Pictures

Mandela: Walk to Freedom – Film Review

Cast: Idris Elba, Naomi Harris, Tony Kgoroge, Riaad Moosa, Jamie Bartlett, Lindiwe Matshikiza, Terry Pheto, Deon Lotz

Director: Justin Chadwick

Synopsis:  An account of the life and journey of South Africa’s first ever black President. From his early years as a lawyer to his rise to political prominence, to his time spent in prison and finally his accession to Presidency of South Africa and bringing the end of apartheid.

Review: As the great man once said “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.” One of the many powerful quotes of the legend that is Nelson Mandela.  The life and legacy of the man and the legend is brought to the big screen in a powerful and emotive way.

The timing of the release of this film could not have been more poignant as Mandela sadly passed away in December 2013. Thankfully Mandela saw the film before he passed away. In its 2 hour and 20 minute run time, the film captures Mandela’s entire life. From his early beginnings as a young boy to his rise to prominence, his time spent in jail and last but not least the making of history by becoming the first black President of South Africa and bringing about the end of apartheid. The scenes in his early years are among the most powerful as it is shown how he went from a lawyer to a strong political activist. He was a man with a voice and people stopped and listened to what he had to say. Whatever he said, he said it well and people listened to what he had to say.

As the film captures Mandela’s life in its entirety, there are some events that are breezed over rather quickly. His early life as a lawyer is not explored in great depth and did feel a bit rushed. In spite of this, it would be a hard ask to cover every event of the man’s life in great detail and achieve that running time. However, the film definitely captures the key moments that made Mandela one of the greatest people of the 20th century. The moment where he has been sentenced to jail and leaves his wife Winnie behind are heart breaking to watch. The fleeting visits that Winnie makes are also tough to watch as you feel your heart break for the both of them.

The role of Mandela needed an actor to represent the charismatic individual that he was, and in this respect Idris Elba was perfect in the lead role.  He captured Mandela perfectly and had the compelling presence and influence that Mandela had in his early years. His voice and accent were also on the money. Elba’s performance was so convincing that Mandela believed he had actually made an appearance in the film.    As his time in jail goes on, while his charisma never diminishes, he becomes a patient and peaceful individual as his campaign to bring the end of apartheid goes to even while he spends the best part of thirty years in captivity.  Alongside Elba in the leading role, Naomi Harris also gives a strong performance as Winnie Mandela. The chemistry between her and Elba was strong.  Harris also goes on a transformation from a loving wife to a  political figure of rebellion.

The film does its best to capture the man and the legend. While some aspects are slightly touched upon, the film touches on the important events well and in this respect it hits all the right notes. A solid portrayal of Mandela  is provided by Idris Elba in what is arguably the best performance of his career to date. With an equally strong performance by Harris, the end product is a fitting tribute to the man who  made a substantial mark on the world and who will be remembered for decades to come.

Anchored by two excellent lead performances ensures that this biopic of one of modern history’s most influential leaders is a story worth telling.

b

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

American Hustle (2013)

All image rights belong to Columbia Pictures , Atlas Entertainment and Annapurna Pictures
Image is property of Columbia Pictures , Atlas Entertainment and Annapurna Pictures

American Hustle – Film Review

Cast: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Louis C.K, Michael Peña, Robert DeNiro

Director: David.O Russell

Synopsis:  Con artist partners Iriving Rosenfeld (Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Adams) are forced into working with FBI Agent Ritchie DiMaso (Cooper). Together they target and con people such as corrupt politicians to ensure Rosenfeld and Prosser do not run into trouble with the law.

Review: 1970s America, a place with jazziness  and interesting fashion styles. Mixed in with  all this are con artists, an FBI agent and some corrupt politicians. As the film’s tagline reads “everyone hustles to survive”   In that we get a very enthralling and complex story with people hustling to make themselves a living, by any means necessary. A funny caption at the start of the film eludes to the fact that the film’s events are based on a true story, although some details may be fictitious.

The ensemble of Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner and Jennifer Lawrence were all fantastic in their roles. Russell seems to know how to get his actors to perform to their full potential. He worked with Bale and Adams on The Fighter and with Lawrence and Cooper in Silver Linings PlaybookIn both of those films the actors were people who were a bit crazy but it worked as Bale and Lawrence both won Oscars for their roles in those films with Cooper and Adams receiving nominations. Again he finds roles for these actors that suit them perfectly and everyone was on top form.

The dialogue between them was a joy to behold as it felt so natural between each character It has come as little surprise to see that the performances of Bale, Adams, Cooper and Lawrence have all been recognised as the four are all nominated for Oscars once again. Bale and Cooper for Best Actor and Supporting Actor respectively and Adams and Lawrence for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively.

The dialogue between the characters was so intriguing and fascinating to watch. What is happening on screen keeps you glued to the screen as you watch their schemes unfold.  As you watch the film run from scene to scene it never slows down and remains entertaining throughout.  Special praise must go to Jennifer Lawrence who just continues to have incredible success.  The Hunger Games franchise may have shot her to super stardom and into the hearts and minds of just about everyone. However, her roles under the guidance of Russell show just how versatile she is. There is one scene with her and Amy Adams in the ladies’ bathroom which just leaves you taken aback by her brilliant acting.  In spite of the fact that everyone did a stellar job in their roles, Lawrence definitely stole the show and a second Oscar could definitely come her way.

Although the plot does keep you entertained throughout the film’s running time, a lot is happening that may cause confusion for viewers. The scam that takes place is complex that it is at times not entirely clear who is conning who. You think that person is being conned, but at the same time you wonder are they being conned? The dialogue ensures the audience is focused but they may have trouble keeping up with what’s going on.   In spite of this confusion the film was a very entertaining film that kept the audience engaged throughout whilst at the same time maybe scrambling their brain cells a little bit.

David O Russell is again on top form with the directing and execution with brilliant acting from the ensemble cast. The leading ladies both bagged Golden Globes for their performances whilst the film scooped the Best Motion Picture for a Musical/Comedy. Furthermore there is a great chance the film could add one or two Oscars to its neat collection of awards.

Tremendously well acted with a terrific script and solid direction from Russell, one of the funniest movies of the year.

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

After Earth (2013)

Image rights belong to Columbia, Overbrook Entertainment, Relativity Media, Blinding Edge Pictures
Image rights belong to Columbia, Overbrook Entertainment, Relativity Media, Blinding Edge Pictures

After Earth – Film Review

Cast: Jaden Smith, Will Smith, Sophie Okonedo, Zoë Kravitz, David Denham

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Synopsis: When  a ship carrying father and son Cypher and Kitai Raige crash lands on an abandoned Earth, and Cypher is injured as a result. Thus Kitai must brave the perilous planet that is crawling with predators and activate a distress beacon in order to get help…

Review: A film that had the potential to be  an exciting story about a fight for survival. When in reality, it was a fight for the retention of concentration and to stay focused on the film. A struggle to resist the urge not to drift away due to sheer boredom of what was going on screen as a father and son duo battle to survive on what was once Planet Earth. It should have been an exciting adventure, the reality is that it was far from that.

With the Smith father and son duo being basically the only actors in this film, the film needs to have those two to be strong characters in order to carry the film through, and this was simply not the case. On the one hand, Will Smith was a very distant and emotionless character. He showed no emotion even to his own son and this made him a very distant and boring character to watch. Similarly, Jaden Smith’s character was equally uninteresting and borderline annoying at times. It is obvious that his character has something to prove, but he just lacked sincerity and conviction when delivering his lines. As a result their father-son bond that is central to the entire film was insipid and made the film almost painful to watch.

Shyamalan’s previous films are generally slow in terms of plot but some of them have had good acting in them and there was intrigue in his earlier work, the likes of The Sixth Sense come to mind. These films were slow except they were good. Yet, with After Earth again the plot was slow, except this time the intrigue was just not there as the two main actors were just uninteresting to watch. The chemistry between them was nowhere to be seen due to Will Smith’s emotionless character and the film suffers as a result, and it suffers badly.

To the film’s credit the scenery of an uninhabitable post human Planet Earth  is something to behold. No humanity is left and the planet is just a vast jungle. However, the  CGI is at times, completely bland. The majority of the creatures that occupy the planet are just not convincing. In a world where Avatar and the like has shown us what CGI is capable of giving cinema, yet the CGI on show in After Earth was just mediocre. A decent score accompanies the film but it is not enough to redeem it from the overall mess that this film is.

A visually impressive world, minus some of the predators, is ultimately buried in a slow and tedious plot with tedious and annoying characters. The once great career of M. Night Shyamalan has slowly descended and After Earth may well be the final straw for many people. There was something great in the potential of this film, but that greatness frittered away into blandness and mediocrity.

Visually it’s impressive, but the woeful acting from Jaden Smith, with a very weak script makes this another nail in the coffin of Shyamalan’s career.

D