After its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival last week, and a screening Friday night at the Toronto International Film Festival, the hype surrounding Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave reached a high point. It is undeniable -- this is the movie you need to see. Don't expect that hype to stop until awards season is over and the movie walks away with more than one statue.
The reviews that trickled in Friday night and Saturday morning were excited, superlative, and unanimously positive. They all had one overwhelming message: 12 Years a Slave -- the third from director Steve McQueen, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender as slave and slave owner, respectively -- will be a movie to mess with come award season. Buzzfeed's Adam Vary called it "most emotionally powerful film I have seen in a decade," in his initial reaction. "The Oscar race has been pronounced over, six months before the ceremony itself," writes the Guardian's Catherine Shoard. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman says it's a "landmark of cruelty and transcendence." This is not last year's Django Unchained, then.
"So... yeah. The stuff you're reading about 12 YEARS A SLAVE that sounds like it must be hyperbole? Kinda isn't," NPR's Linda Holmes added on Twitter.
This kind of breathless praise shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who read the early reviews out of Telluride. That festival isn't as widely attended as TIFF, but the movie's brilliance was still on display for those in attendance. The Hollywood Reporter's Scott Feinberg didn't mince words last weekend in his report on the premiere:
Indeed, I believe that it will strongly contend for noms in the categories of best picture, best director (McQueen, for biting off more than ever before and capably chewing it), best actor (Ejiofor, for his total commitment in every scene of the film), best supporting actor (Fassbender, for playing a brutal Southern slave owner), best supporting actress (N'yongo, for portraying a slave who endures heartbreaking brutality), best adapted screenplay (for John Ridley's take on Solomon Northup's 1853 autobiography of the same title) and best original score (Hans Zimmer).
A shorter summation of Feinberg's comments: 12 Years a Slave will contend for every major award it possibly can on Oscar night.
So, uh, that means it's pretty good, right? Maybe worth the $10 to see it at the theater?