Monday 16 December 2013

12 Years a Slave in Tibet

Bullseyes:  ③ (out of 5)

I procrastinated about going to see 12 Years a Slave in Tibet because I had a feeling it was going to be boring. 
My wife gave me fair warning as I was umming and ahing about whether to go.
“Your daughter went to see it the other day” she remarked, as I put on my coat.
My wife accompanied the, ‘uh’ with a shrug.
“What does ‘uh’ mean…?” I replied, mimicking the shrug.
I found out about 5 hours into the movie.

There’s plenty of ‘uh’ in 12 Years a Slave. The main problem is that the tale is just so grim, it’s hard to watch.  Especially certain scenes.  Yikes, I doubt even the Passion of The Christ had a whipping scene as graphic as the one here. Director Steve McQueen gives us virtually nothing to lighten up the mood.  Even Brad Bitt’s inexplicable appearance does little to raise a smile.

And, as if to accentuate the agony, half way through the movie McQueen sees fit to give us a wailing woman – a stolen slave, torn from her children by a dastardly slave trader - who was also the bloke from Barney’s version (why do Director’s insist on recycling actors we know from other movies?  ‘Hey look, that bloke selling those two sobbing children is Doctor Doolittle!’). 

The wailing woman sobs for 15 minutes in the middle of the movie as if begging us to leave (to be fair, lead actor Chiwetel Ejiofor does tell her to shut up).

Another issue with the movie is the long silences.  Those Tarantino like cinematic indulgences where we get to stare at a field full of cotton, blowing in the wind for 20, 30, 40 seconds…
What’s going on…?

You can’t create awe on demand.  Awe has to be earned. 

12 Years a Slave in Tibet isn’t quite ‘Awe’ful but it’s not quite awe inspiring either.