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12 Years a Slave
12 Years A Slave
Director: Steve McQueen
Writers: John Ridley, Solomon Northup
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dwight Henry, Dickie Gravois, Bryan Batt, Ashley Dyke, Kelsey Scott, Quvenzhané Wallis, Cameron Zeigler, Tony Bentley, Scoot McNairy, Taran Killam, Christopher Berry, Bill Camp, Mister Mackey Jr., Chris Chalk, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lupita Nyong'o
Synopsis: In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence/cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality
- Great acting performances from Michael Fassbender, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Lupita Nyong'o
- Well written story
- Manages to make a tired old story concept feel fresh and original
- Authentic settings, and costume designs
- Well paced
- May be a bit graphic for some audiences, but it's worth getting into
A controversial film about one man's will to survive during his days as a slave...
Based on a true story, "12 Years a Slave" follows a free man named Solomon Northup, whom resides in upstate New York. However, one day while on a business trip, he ends up getting kidnapped, and sold into slavery. With no way to prove his real identity as a free man, he's forced to work as a slave for the next twelve years of his life.
Completely cut off from his family, and friends. It would seem like Solomon's life has gone down hill. What transpires throughout the rest of this film isn't for the faint of heart, as there's various graphic depictions about the cruelty of slavery. Showing not only the depth of how evil humanity's own ignorance can lead to prejudice and evil, but it also shows the level of compassion that humanity is capable of as well.
Although racism and slavery is hardly a new topic when it comes to movies, as I'm sure many of my readers have seen their fair share of films covering these before; or at the very least, they heard of a few that existed long before this one. However, "12 Years a Slave" somehow manages to make it seem fresh, and still quite engaging.
I won't divulge too much into the story, as I would hate to ruin this film for my readers. However, with the way "12 Years a Slave" sets things up, you genuinely can't help but feel the fears and hatred that Solomon puts up with over the years. It's quite a moving and touching story, as I would have to concur with anyone who says that it deserved an Oscar for "Best Picture" earlier this year.
Although I wouldn't go out of my way to say that I think this was the best movie of last year, but it's definitely one of the deepest ones by far. Not only is the story very engaging, and well written, but the characters well developed as well.
In a film like this, it would be easy to resort to various stereotypes that we've seen before in movies of this ilk. And don't get me wrong, there are a few minor characters that fall into that category. But, the major characters in this movie are surprisingly deeper than you might think.
Solomon Northup for instance isn't portrayed as some stereotypical black slave, as he's portrayed as a man that genuinely misses his family, while doing whatever it takes to survive his current predicament. Sadly, this requires him to sometime to act harshly, in ways that he wouldn't normally resort to.
One scene that comes to mind is when he's ordered, by his master, to whip a poor girl for her disobedience. One can tell that Solomon isn't comfortable whipping the girl, but he's told that if he doesn't, then all the other slaves would be killed. It's during this scene that we can see the inner turmoil in his character, as the expression on Chiwetel Ejiofor's face says it all. It's almost kind of sad that he didn't win the Oscar for this role, as he certainly deserved.
Another performance that was great was Michael Fassbender's part, as the racist plantation owner. As I've said earlier, it would've been very easy to have all these characters resort to being played out like common stereotypes that we've seen in million of other films before, but it seems Michael adds a lot of depth to his character that makes "12 Years a Slave" all that much more fun to watch.
Although he's still portrayed as a racist jerk in this film, we still manage to see that there's more to his character than that. The poor girl that was being whipped, in the scene I was describing earlier, was a girl that he seems have something of a strong affinity for. Although it's never directly stated in this film, it is heavily implied that Fassbender's character harbors deep feelings for the girl on some level; which makes the whipping scene all that much more horrifying to watch.
During that scene, Solomon does whip the girl, but he does it in such a way that the whip barely scratches her skin. Needless to say, this forces Fassbender's character to intervene, and whip her himself. As we watch the expression on his face, we can almost see how internally conflicted his character truly is. On the one hand, he's essentially a racist a**hole, who firmly believes that slavery is justified; hence he should have no problem disciplining his own property any way he sees fit. But on the other hand, you can tell he's conflicted about hurting someone that he might possibly have deep feelings for. It's a conflicting scene, and a very interesting one to watch.
As for Lupita Nyong'o, I thought she did an excellent job in this film as well. Truly deserving of her Oscar victory earlier this year, as one can only hope we'll see more of her in the years to come.
Overall, i won't go on record to say that "12 Years a Slave" is the best film that I've seen last year, but it's certainly one of the most touching. If you can make it past the graphic nature that this film presents, then you might find yourself enthralled by one of the deepest movies ever made.
© 2014 Steven Escareno