My take on “12 Years a Slave”
Ah…where do I begin with this movie? I knew I wanted to see this movie but I knew it wouldn’t be an easy watch so I hesitated but talked myself into man-ing up and seeing it. And boy am I so ever glad I did.
The movie tells the true story of a freed slave Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) from DC. He was a violinist by profession and was lured by two white men who told him they had a job for him. They ended up drugging him and selling him back into slavery. Northrup had his name changed to Platt and was shipped down south to a plantation where he is purchased by a slave owner (Benedict Cumberbatch). Things go awry and he is sold to yet another slave owner, the deplorable Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). Living situation on this plantation is not as good as it was with his former master as Epps seems to be a crazy man who really hates “niggas” but has a fascination with young slave, Patsy (Lupita Nyong’o) and has his way with her at will. His wife(Sarah Paulson) is very aware of this fascination and does not hide her hatred for Patsy also abusing her at will. The movie fleshes out and tells us the various hardships Solomon endured before being freed again.
I loved this movie. I really did. There really isn’t anything better than a well done movie. Why did I love this movie? It didn’t try to be anything else but itself. A movie like this with a sensitive subject could have easily gone the wrong way but it told the American history of slavery (and Northrup’s story) as it was and didn’t try to force you to have some kind of emotion as some movies try to do. The emotion you felt was real and sincere because the movie was like a shot of hard liquor you took with no chaser. This movie had such a strong cast. Besides the well known names as seen in promos for the movies it had actors such as Adepero Oduye (who I thought was thought was the weakest link in this movie), Quevenzhane Wallis (Beasts of Southern Wild), Alfre Woodard, Michael K Williams (Boardwalk Empire) etc. Even though their roles were small, they fulfilled what they were supposed to do. Back to the bigger roles – Chiwetel, Fassbender and Nyong’o did a great job, with Fassbender being my standout performance. I didn’t think anything special about Nyong’o’s performance till a particular scene – and when you watch it you will know what scene I speak of.
What didn’t I like? There wasn’t much I didn’t like but I have to say a few scenes, the director seemed to linger on for longer than he should have. I am guessing the purpose was for it to sink it but I think we could have done without that. Also and I admit this is minute, there was a close up scene in which we could see the hole of Ejiofor’s pierced ear. It’s like 1850’s, a little makeup to hide it wouldn’t have hurt.
I find it ironic that a well told story about slavery in America was told by 2 Brits in the forefront (Steve McQueen the director, who is black and Ejiofor as lead). I’m a squeamish scaredy cat, so I couldn’t watch most of the scenes but I’d be lying if I said this movie didn’t stir up emotions I didn’t know were possible. It just was so sad, especially knowing that at some point these were people’s reality. My theater had people loudly sobbing and I saw people wipe tears as I left. I expect to see Ejiofor, Fassbender and McQueen on the award circuit and also hope to see it for best picture. I recommend this movie just be prepared, as someone on my timeline described it it is an “emotional punch to the gut”. Except it’s a well delivered punch.