Movie Review: 12 Years a Slave (2013)

12 Years A Slave Movie Poster12 Years a Slave Will Stay With You Forever

5 Stars

How can something be so incredibly painful, but absolutely amazing at the same time? 12 Years a Slave is the depressingly true account of Solomon Northup, a black man who was living a free life in New York, prior to being kidnapped and sold into slavery.

The story is true, which makes it that much worse. Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), was living as a free man in Saratoga. He was a gifted violinist. Then, he is lured to Washington DC for what he thinks is a show. Instead, he is trapped in a cell, manacled and stripped of his papers declaring him a free man. He is sold at auction and what follows is him trying to regain his freedom for 12 years.

First, the actors in this film need a serious shout out because they were flawless. Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) is the main bad guy in the film, a drunken, debauched, complete monster of a plantation owner. Fassbender plays his roll in a way that came very close to making me hate him as a person. I had to continue reminding myself that he was just an actor and that I shouldn’t start sending him hate mail based on the way he acted in the film.[more…]

As for Chiwetel Ejiofor, the man who played Northup, I can say nothing more than…wonderful. To be fair, I have been madly in love with Ejiofor since I first saw him in Serenity. However, he so completely changed himself for this roll that as first, I did not recognize him as “The Operative”. Instead, he literally became Northup, an educated man who had lived a beautiful free life, not just of acceptance, but of actual celebration. Then, he was taken down, as far as a man could go, but still retained a quiet dignity. I imagine if photos were available of Northup during both those periods, Ejiofor would match them frame for frame. If he doesn’t get nominated for an Oscar for his performance, I can only assume someone in the nominations office has brain damage.

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There is of course, a happy ending. Northup wouldn’t have been able to write his biography if there wasn’t. But before this happy ending, you’ll need to see a lot of heartbreak. It’s actually pretty hard to watch, but at the same time, you won’t be able to look away.

I rarely call a movie flawless. In fact, in most cases, even when I give a great review, I always find something to pick apart. This is a rarity for me, because there is nothing to pick apart. This movie was 100% flawlessly executed. The background music, produced by the noted Hans Zimmer, highlights the moments without taking them over. The director, Steve McQueen, knew when to fade out and when to keep filming. There were no lazy actors in this film. Even the bit parts were played with realism and authenticity.
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12 Years a Slave will stay with you. If you were a fan of the book, then you can rest assured that the movie remains true to it. This is a true story of triumph over adversity that is guaranteed to become a classic.

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