12 Years a Slave | Movie Review

By: Cynthia A.

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Directed by: Steve McQueen

Screenplay by: John Ridley

Based on Twelve Years a Slave   by Solomon Northup

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt & Alfre Woodard

Based on the true story of Solomon Northup who, in 1841, was a free Negro living with his wife and two children in Saratoga Springs, New York who is one day lured by a pair of men into a lucrative touring gig with a circus.  After a night of drinking with the two men, Northup awakes to find himself chained to a floor, realizing that he has been drugged and sold into slavery. This begins his slavery when he is forced to take the identity of a runaway slave named Platt and has to endure slavery for 12 years until by chance he is saved by old friends and new.

A powerful and tragic story about a real life event that not only happened once or twice before the civil war, but many times.  As the endnotes at the movie reveal, Solomon was only one of the few free slaves who was able to escape. The saddest part is this type of circumstance is still happening today with the sex trade and child soldiers, it didn’t stop back then, but those who were lucky enough to escape were able to bring to light what happened, just like Solomon did.

This was such a powerful movie that did not shy away from the horrors of slavery.  It brought to life just what Negro’s had to endure, what their plight was and what happened to them.  What’s worse is that this movie touched upon what exactly was going on here, he was a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery, a fate no man should have suffered.  And the actors, the writers, those who adapted the novel into a film, all of them together did such a brilliant job of capturing the pain and the struggle to what happened to Solomon and the horrors he had to endure and witness. Chiwetel Ejiofor captured Solomon’s struggle for survival and his never ending hope with such a passion, making his delivery of his character heart wrenching and Michael Fassbender executed the cruelty of his character with frightening precision.

Everything about this movie was gripping, it was painful, it was raunchy, but it was honest.  This is one of those movies that is honest about history, with some added embellishments, but those embellishments were not false, they may not have happened to Solomon directly, but they happened.  All the pain and all the suffering was just too honest, so brutal but gripping and a part of history no one should ever forget. This was a necessary film, one that deserved to be made and presented before the world.  The cruelty of the characters, the real life actions of those who were products of circumstance versus those who took pleasure in the pain of others. Everything about this movie was brilliant, opening the eyes of everyone to history the way they should be opened. A landmark movie that has made its place in history.

If you have the chance, watch this powerful and honest movie, it is worth every scent.  ★★★★ (A+)

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