Based on the true story of Solomon Northup – a freeman who was kidnapped and sold to slavery; 12 Years a Slave is one of the favourites to win the Oscar and with good reason. 12 Years a Slave review after the jump.
The hype surrounding 12 Years a Slave is massive. Even before the film was first shown, people had stated that the film was destined for greatness and the Academy Awards. Directed by Steve McQueen and produced by Brad Pitt, with the latter showing up in a small role, the film is both powerful and brutally graphic.
Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a well-educated black man in 1840’s America. With a wife and two young children, Solomon spends his time earning money by playing the fiddle. He is approached by two men from Washington who work for a circus and offered a job playing music to accompany the show. Seeing as it is good money, he accepts. After one particular good night, they celebrate with a meal, but a drunken Solomon wakes up to find himself in shackles and, even though he protests, he is sold into slavery.
12 Years a Slave is shocking on most accounts. The story is heart breaking and it’s hard to believe that the human race could act in the manner they do here. The treatment of fellow humans and the divide just because of the colour of a person’s skin is despicable. When Solomon is being sold by Freeman (Paul Giamatti), you could be mistaken for him being a car room salesman, such lack of humanity.
The brutality of the movie is seen in the beatings and whippings of Solomon and his fellow slaves. If a slave has picked less cotton than they had the day before, they are then tied to a tree and whipped until their skin is torn apart and their clothes are stained with blood.
Chiwetel Ejiofor puts in a powerful performance as Solomon, a man who just wants to go home to his family. Don’t be surprised if both himself and Michael Fassbender walk away with the Best Actor and Supporting Actor awards. Fassbender plays Edwin Epps, a strict and drunk cotton rancher who purchases Solomon from Mr Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch). Both are truly fantastic.
One problem I had with 12 Years a Slave was the passing of time. Obviously, from the title alone, we know that Solomon was made a slave for 12 years, but with no mention and no real change in people’s appearances, it could just as well been 12 weeks.
A powerful film based on a tough subject, 12 Years a Slave will intrigue and upset in equal measure – all the hallmarks of a modern classic.