DISCLAIMER: At the time of my viewing I was not aware of the controversy surrounding the writer, director and star of this film. Due to what I feel is the importance of this historical story I decided to post this review. It is not meant as an endorsement one way or the other of the person’s past events; I do not have enough knowledge on this controversy.
The 64 count box had the ideal amount for me. Anything more would only confuse me, taking more time to decide which color I would use next. For a kid a box of crayons is an unlimited source of fun and imagination. In my world every color had a purpose and belonged in the box. I started out using the yellow crayon every time I had a sun to draw. Later on I started adding crayons from the orange family, giving the sun a morning or evening look. At one time I started outlining everything with the black crayon then shading in the rest with a variety of colors. None of my crayons ever went unused; they each were treated equally and belonged in that 64 count crayon box. Something I noticed when I was at someone’s house who had crayons; not all of the crayons wore down at the same rate. They could have a short white crayon but a long black one that looked like it had not been used. Another house could have the tan or I think it was also called cocoa colored crayon sitting in the box never to be touched or be part of the picture the person was working on. I will never forget in a science class how the teacher showed us if we took a blue and yellow crayon then drew one color over the other we would have the color green. It was a revelation for me. Except for blue, red and yellow all the other crayons are a combination of 2 or more other colors. The crayons in my box all worked together in harmony unlike the real world. BEING one of the few slaves who could read Nat Turner’s, played by Nate Parker (The Great Debaters, Red Tails); owner was able to rent him out to preach to the unruly slaves living on the other plantations. The things Nat saw opened his eyes in a new way. This film festival winning dramatic biography also starred Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger, The Social Network) as Samuel Turner and Penelope Ann Miller (The Artist, Awakenings) as Elizabeth Turner. As I said the story based on true events was important but I felt the script needed to be stronger to support the magnitude of the events taking place back during the 1830’s in Virginia. The acting was quite good especially during some of the disturbing scenes in this picture; however, there were gaps in the script where things slowed down for me. I was confused by the outcome that took place in a couple of scenes. For the most part the directing was spot on for this first time director. This was not easy to watch for a few reasons, one being the narrowness and ugliness of the times that only wanted to use 1 of 2 colors from a very small box of crayons.
I first learned about prejudice in elementary school, but it was not from school books. My first exposure had to do with religious differences. After answering a classmate’s question on what was my religion, he told me I was dirty. At the time I was confused by his comment, remembering I looked down at my hands to see if they were unclean. Shortly after I discovered other classmates were treated to the same encounter. If you were not the same religion as this boy, he believed something was wrong with you. The next form of prejudice I witnessed occurred later when a new student was enrolled into my class who was African American. There was no overt actions taken against her; however, she was shunned by several students. I did not understand why classmates would react in such a way, let alone try to figure out the reasoning behind it. My elementary school years were only a prelude to the horrors I would encounter when I entered into high school. One of the reasons I started this review by writing about the prejudices and discriminations I saw at such a young age was to prepare you for what were the most realistic depictions of them that I have ever seen in a movie. Based on Solomon Northup’s memoir, this movie should be required viewing in every school. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Children of Men, American Gangster) was unbelievable playing Solomon; a free black man with a wife and two children, living in upper state New York who was kidnapped, shipped to Louisiana and sold into slavery. Directed by Steve McQueen (Shame, Hunger), I have never experienced the range of intensity and hatred portrayed in a film about slavery like it was done in this film festival winner. Relative newcomer Lupita Nyong’o was outstanding in her role as Patsey, the slave of cotton plantation owner Edwin Epps, played by Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method, Prometheus). The story was amazing to watch on film; I can only imagine what Solomon Northup’s book must be like to read. Even with some actors such as Paul Dano (Prisoners, Ruby Sparks) as Tibeats and Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement,War Horse) as Ford having brief screen time, they still made every minute count with their characters. This is a movie that needs to be seen by everyone. Now I certainly would not be considered an optimist, but forgive me if my hope is the human race would be better by witnessing the ugliness of prejudice and slavery shown in this magnificent film. There were several scenes that showed blood and violence.
You are getting something more with your purchase of a ticket for this movie. You are receiving passage to a director who lovingly pays tribute to his elders with this film. Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill franchise) looks at past filmmakers’ achievements and updates them for a current audience. And in this case he also channels a little bit of Mel Brooks into a couple of scenes in this film. I am not a fan of blood and guts violence, so when I view a Tarantino movie I know there will be a heightened intensity to any kind of confrontation. But Quentin adds a stylized touch to such violence; case in point, the viewer sees a red mist of blood sprayed onto a patch of cotton plants instead of the intended victim. Then there is Quentin’s choice of music for the various scenes; it clearly conveys the actors’ feelings on an audible emotional level. The story starts out simple: a bounty hunter becomes a mentor to a recently freed slave, needing his assistance in tracking down the wanted Brittle brothers. As you may know with any story written by Quentin, there are multiple story lines added. The acting was outstanding throughout this wild film. Jamie Foxx (Law Abiding Citizen, Ray) played slave turned bounty hunter Django. His performance was a simmering, restricted anger on the verge of boiling over. His mentor was the precise, German transplant Dr. King Schultz (you have to love the irony of his name) played brilliantly by Christoph Waltz (Carnage, Water for Elephants). One of my favorite actors, Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic, The Departed) was cast as the maniacal southern plantation owner Calvin Candie. Adding his own special touch to the cast and story was Samuel L. Jackson (Jackie Brown, Unbreakable) as Calvin’s servant Stephen. The great use of dialog, the captivating photography and the imaginative camera angles all helped to make this movie a wonderful homage to what was referred to as the spaghetti western movies. Clocking in at 2 hours and 45 minutes, this film could have used stronger editing. Be prepared to laugh, wince, cringe, stare with disbelief, have your ears assaulted by vulgar negative words, witness ripped or bullet ridden bloody flesh as you enter the unbelievable world of Quentin Tarantino.
3 1/2 stars
Like most young children, I wished I had superpowers. I wanted to fly 6 feet off the ground, skimming over the heads of people. As to why that particular height, I believe it was because I knew no one over 6 feet tall. Another power I wanted was to have the ability to time travel. The capacity to travel back to historical events and meet famous people has always fascinated me. After all these years my wish came true with this amazing movie. I was watching Abraham Lincoln not Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood, My Left Foot), the actor that portrayed Lincoln. His performance was more than outstanding; it was real, causing me to tear up every time he spoke. Daniel will be the one to beat in this year’s Oscar race. Sally Field (Forrest Gump, The Amazing Spider-Man) brought a deep understanding to her character as Mary Todd Lincoln. Honesty there was not a bad performance from any of the cast which included Tommy Lee Jones (Hope Springs, In the Valley of Elah) as Thaddeus Stevens and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) as Robert Lincoln. The story focused on the time surrounding the creation of the 13th amendment to the constitution, which would ban slavery. Tony Kushner (Angels in America, Munich) wrote the rich screenplay, allowing a majority of characters in the movie to have their own special moment. I appreciated the work involved in recreating the sets to exact details, having read director Steven Spielberg (War Horse, Saving Private Ryan), Daniel and Tony each visited the Lincoln Library in Springfield, Illinois for research. For example, Steven recorded the sound from Lincoln’s pocket watch and recreated the exact titles of books for the bookcases in the White House. The only fault I can say about the movie was several scenes seemed implausible to me. I felt they were manipulated to create a more heartwarming experience for the viewer. With that said, this movie was one of Steven Spielberg’s finest creations. When the lights came up in the movie theater, I could finally say I met Abraham Lincoln. I left my seat with a better understanding of our country’s history, feeling uplifted. Brief scenes of blood and violence.
3 1/2 stars