12 Years a Slave ★★★½

Slavery mechanics
Spinning like a water wheel.
Spanish moss hangs
Like ghosts of the lynched.
Outsider POV.

Does anything else need to be said? I’ll say this film came closest to making Benedict Cumberbatch into an Interesting Actor, and the stuff on his plantation is way more fascinating and worth discussing than anything after Fassbender shows up and turns this into a cartoon. Perhaps a Necessary Corrective, but this film often hints at a better movie than the one we get. Still really good at times—a film that examines the intellectual and ideological ramifications of slavery as an institution than just one that was “really bad, man”—something I wish its champions would discuss more than how much they cried. It’s key that Solomon is not born in the South so he (and the audience) can engage to see how different the actual brain wiring is from the North (which is the key to the Brad Pitt scene). One great cut I’ll discuss: Solomon begins running away from the plantation and runs into two African Americans being hung. In the next sequence, we see him suddenly sprinting away from the plantation again, but this time in order to fetch Patsy from a neighboring plantation. Every action can be reoriented into a new ideology.

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