12 Years a Slave
I can’t really handle that this trailer so clearly uses Hans Zimmer’s music from “Inception;” but that has really has nothing to do with the fact that “12 Years a Slave” looks, like both of Steve McQueen’s previous films (“Hunger,” “Shame”), visually stunning. I’m a big fan of Chiwetel Ejiofor, though I’m not so keen on the groan-inducing lines he’s being forced to deal with here (“I don’t want to survive. I want to live!”). I just can’t picture McQueen, whose previous films were so clinical and unsparing, resorting to such tired inspirational platitudes – there must be something more to the story than what we’re being given here.
Though Ejiofor is the protagonist here, it’s difficult to take your eyes off Michael Fassbender (isn’t it always?). It looks like he’s committed to his performance as a particularly nasty slaveowner with the kind of intensity we’ve come to expect from him. Can the other scene-stealers present (Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard) also make an impact?
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
It’s a little morbid, but given Nelson Mandela’s recent ill health and the ensuing public reflection on his career, The Weinstein Company couldn’t have asked for better timing with this biopic. I also find it very promising, and fitting, that this trailer (or at least the first half of it) promises to embrace some of the complexities of Mandela’s life, including his participation in anti-apartheid violence and his relationship with his first wife, Winnie. Clint Eastwood’s “Invictus” was a glossy, disturbingly over-simplified look at Mandela’s leadership: hopefully “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” can provide a more nuanced portrayal of this towering historical figure.
Idris Elba’s accent is pretty much spot on, which helps to distract from the glaring physical differences between him and the real Mandela (Frank Langella managed it with Richard Nixon, after all). If he’s as good as he looks here, a Best Actor nomination is all but assured. I’m also pretty excited for Naomie Harris (“28 Days Later,” “Skyfall”) as Winnie Mandela- a very talented actress for what could be a very tricky role.
The Fifth Estate
I don’t know what evil genius decided to cast Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assanges, but man, it’s kind of terrifying. Something about the accent seems oddly monotonous and strained, but I honestly can’t tell if that’s Cumberbatch’s performance or just being true to Assanges’ real-life eccentricity. I suspect Alex Gibney’s documentary on the same subject (“We Steal Secrets”) is a more informative and balanced take on the Wikileaks controversy, but this could be an entertaining thriller nonetheless. I’m also pleased that with this and Ron Howard’s “Rush,” Daniel Brühl is poised to have a big year – he’s been poised on the cusp of stardom for years now and it would be great if he made the leap.
Mads Mikkelsen won the Best Actor award at Cannes back in 2012 for playing a schoolteacher falsely accused of molesting one of his students. The film itself looks a bit heavy-handed in its witch-hunt premise, but I’m more or less willing to watch Mikkelsen in anything.