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Review: 12 Years A Slave

Updated on January 26, 2014

This marks my first entry in my reviews of the Oscar nominated films of this year. I saw the film back when it initially came out, but held off on reviewing it. I will also most likely do an article laying out my predictions as to who will win the awards. However, back to the film at hand. This film is directed by a masterful director who in large part up until now was not a well known director. His name is Steve McQueen, and no, not the action star from way back when. Not only does it benefit from an extraordinary director but it's actor's shine in each of their roles and bring their "A" game to each scene creating a gripping story about slavery.

The plot follows Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejofor), a freeman working as a skilled carpenter and fiddle player who lives with his wife and two children in the time 1841. Two men offer him a job as a fiddle player for two weeks but instead they end up drugging him and selling him into the world of slavery. Northup is shipped to New Orleans while also being renamed "Platt", the identity of a runaway slave from Georgia. From this point he is sold from slave-trader Theophilus Freeman (Paul Giamatti) to a plantation owner by the name of William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch). Under Ford, Northup proves his worth with his skills as a carpenter and a fiddle player. However, while being under the approving eye of Ford, this puts Northup in danger from Ford's racist carpenter John Tibeats (Paul Dano). Tibeats begins to verbally abuse Northup and when he is eventually upstaged in Northup's superior carpenting skills, Tibeats attacks him and hangs him in the garden where he clings on so desperately for dear life until Ford comes to save him. This horrible event leads to Ford selling Northup to another slave dealer who is a bit of a tyrant named Edwin Epps. (Micheal Fassbender)

Epps believed it was his god-given right to abuse his slaves as he saw fit and he frequently did if they did something that he deemed unworthy. He required his slaves to pick at least 200 pounds of cotton every day and if they did not, he would subject them to be beaten. A young female slave under his doting eye named Patsey (Lupita Nygong'o) who is able to pick over 500 pounds of cotton daily who Epps praises lavishly and inevitably covets lustfully. This of course, angers Epps' wife (Sarah Paulson), which leads this entire precarious situation to lead Northup to want to find a way quickly out of his predicament. While being a "good slave" under the Eyes of Epps, but through a few men he tries to get a letter out to his friends in New York to get him out of slavery.

Closing Comments

First off, the cinematography and the directing is again, breathtaking. The most breathtaking shot to me throughout the film was the wide shot angle of Northup with a noose around his neck hanging by the tree in Ford's garden. The shot was held so long leaving the audience in shock hoping that someone at some point would come up and save him from that torture. Beyond the excellent directing, the film excels on the back of the terrific performances delivered by Ejofor, Nygong'o and Fassbender. It is no shock at all that the three of them are up for awards for their work and in each respective it is well deserved. All in all it is a very good film, my only gripe would be that the pacing is a little off at times but it doesn't affect the movie too horribly.


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