12 Years A Slave
Directed By: Steve McQueen
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson and Brad Pitt
12 Years A Slave was this year’s Best Picture Winner. I could leave it at that, but this a review blog and I am here to review. I am just going to state the obvious before I go any further in the review: this is an R-rated film about slavery. It is a true story. There are scenes that are very difficult to watch. However, what we are seeing onscreen is not even half as awful as what the real Solomon Northup and thousands of others really suffered through on a regular basis. The Story: 12 Years A Slave is the true story of Solomon Northup, a free man living in New York in the mid 1800’s with his wife and children. He is very well-educated and a trained violinist who earns a steady living for his family. One day, Solomon is approached by two men who want him to play the violin at a few parties in Washington. He agrees to the deal. While at dinner with the men, he drinks some wine that has been drugged. While unconscious, Solomon is sold into slavery. What follows is a heartbreaking, painful, and powerful look at one man’s fight for survival. The Acting: Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Solomon Northup. His portrayal of Solomon is so emotionally captivating that I’m really surprised he wasn’t a stronger Oscar contender. You can actually see the pain in his face and hear it in his voice throughout the film. However, you can also see that he is determined to keep on living. He will not give up on getting back to his family. He will fight against the terrible conditions he’s been unjustly sold into. After seeing the film, I thought for a long time about how Solomon’s freedom was taken away from him without his consent. Can you imagine having all of your freedom completely taken away from you? This man was hard working with an exceptional family, yet he was unjustly taken away from everything he knew, just so some people could make some money. It’s truly unbelievable.
Lupita Nyong’o plays Patsey and this is her first major film role. Patsey is a girl that Solomon meets at the Epps plantation. She is taken advantage of and abused countless amount of times by the plantation owner and his ridiculously jealous wife. Despite the abuse she suffers, she possesses a unique innocence. She also maintains kindness to those around her throughout her pain. It was interesting to see the differences between Solomon and Patsey. Solomon was brought into slavery after experiencing a life of freedom and Patsey was subjected to a life of slavery. I kept wondering which would be worse, to know freedom and then be forced into a life in chains? Or to be stuck in a life of slavery forever without ever knowing freedom? The film explored this theme in an interesting manner and it will definitely leave you thinking. I am shocked that this is Lupita Nyong’o’s first major film role because she is absolutely remarkable. Nyong’o is absolutely heart wrenching as Patsey and it’s not at all surprising that she took home the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her emotional performance.
Michael Fassbender plays Epps. He is quite possibly the most terrifying, disturbing movie character I’ve ever seen on film. He truly believes that the slaves on his plantation are “property” rather than human beings. (Property that he doesn’t value in any way.) A drunk and a lunatic, Epps is an absolute menace to everyone around him.
Brad Pitt co-produced the movie and has a cameo appearance in it. He plays Bass, a man working at the Epps Plantation as hired help. He is one of the very few kind people that Solomon encounters. Bass is not in the film much, but he is a significantly important character because he is instrumental in Solomon’s quest to regain his freedom and return to his family.