Critical acclaim continues to mount for Steve McQueen's historical drama "12 Years a Slave," which has garnered near-universal praise since its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in late summer. Adapted from the 1853 autobiography of the same name by Solomon Northup, the film stars
The Times' Kenneth Turan finds the film powerful but difficult to watch. He writes, "this film intends to do more than tell us a story. It wants to immerse us in an experience, and it does. Obviously, no film can re-create the unspeakable degradation of one human being owning another, but in making the attempt '12 Years' insists we feel things in a particularly oppressive way. This is impressive filmmaking, but it is not easy to take in."
The film also features "potent performances across the board," from Ejiofor, frequent McQueen collaborator
She also writes, "'12 Years a Slave' isn't the first movie about slavery in the United States — but it may be the one that finally makes it impossible for American cinema to continue to sell the ugly lies it's been hawking for more than a century. … It's at once a familiar, utterly strange and deeply American story in which the period trappings long beloved by Hollywood — the paternalistic gentry with their pretty plantations, their genteel manners and all the fiddle-dee-dee rest — are the backdrop for an outrage."
It's nearly impossible to find a bad review of "12 Years a Slave" — the film boasts a "96% fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 97 out of 100 on Metacritic — although a few critics find McQueen's direction somewhat frigid. New York's David Edelstein writes, "From a political and humanist standpoint, there are plenty of reasons to champion '12 Years a Slave' … it's smashingly effective as melodrama. But McQueen's directorial voice — cold, stark, deterministic — keeps it from attaining the kind of grace that marks the voice of a true film artist."
And the Village Voice's Stephanie Zacharek writes, "It's all so perfect, so right. But is there any blood in its veins? '12 Years a Slave' is a pristine, aesthetically tasteful movie about the horrors of slavery," she says, but "it's a picture that stays more than a few safe steps away from anything so dangerous as raw feeling."
That said, most critics seem to agree with the