Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Movie Review: "12 Years a Slave" (2013)

Movie: "12 Years a Slave"
Director: Steven McQueen
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 14 minutes
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A free black man named Soloman Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is living with his wife and two children in upstate New York when he is duped by some business associates and is subsequently kidnapped and forced into slavery for 12 years. He repeatedly professes his freedom, which falls on deaf ears. He is transferred from plantation to plantation and is forced to hide his status, talents, and education for fear that he will be reprimanded. He spends the majority of his "incarceration" on Edwin Epps' (Michael Fassbender) plantation; Epps is an unruly drunken taskmaster who fancies himself as a breaker of the spirits of the people he "owns." Epps' wife (Sarah Paulson) is equally as merciless and horrible, and specifically (and jealously) goes after Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o), a slave who has caught her husband's eye. Soloman does everything he can to survive, to hang on to what little hope he has left, and to find a way to get out of the hell where he finds himself.

This film is absolutely, without a doubt one of the best films we have seen all year. It is heart-wrenching to imagine and gut-wrenching to watch, but it is important for films like this to be made and shown in order to help us as a nation, and as a world, learn from the mistakes of our past.

With that being said, "12 Years a Slave" is beautifully executed and expertly crafted by director Steve McQueen. Every single part of the film needed to be there, from the overtly violent torture scenes to scenes where the slaves are forced to do otherwise asinine tasks like dancing or going to the market...each scene shows a different form of power that white plantation owners had and executed over their "property." That is where we were as a nation not all that long ago, and it is frightening to imagine, distressing to relive, and humbling and embarrassing to see played out so well on-screen.

We don't remember learning this history from school, about free men like Solomon Northup who were kidnapped and forced into slavery...we didn't learn about that, and that is embarrassing, too. It is such stain on our history. It makes us look at current human rights issues we face as a country today, and in 100 years when people look back on us in history, it will come down to the same question: what side of history are you on?

Chiwetel Ejiofor is absolutely stunning in this's hard to describe how good he is. Every word he speaks, every lash he takes, every emotion he has, we felt everything he felt. My jaw dropped several times throughout the film, and the tears just kept flowing in streams of raw emotion, so much so that my throat hurt after we were through watching this. We'd be surprised as hell if he doesn't at least get a nomination for Best Actor at the Oscars this years. Michael Fassbender is equally as incredible, though his character is despicable and horrid and you hate him so much, he acts fantastically. Even the supporting actors in this film like Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Paul Dano, who only share the screen with Ejiofor for short periods of time, do well in their roles.

Though this movie is a tough subject to watch, it is definitely a must-see.

My Rating: 10/10
BigJ's Rating: 10/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 96%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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