12 Years a Slave is a powerful, riveting tale that is based off a true story, written by Solomon Northup, dating back to the mid 1800s. The film is directed by Steve McQueen and stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as the title role. The film centers on a young father and husband, Solomon (Ejiofor) who lives as a highly educated free man in Saratoga, New York in 1841. When his wife takes an annual trip for work, she takes their two children and leave for three weeks. In the mean time, Solomon unfortunately meets two men that will forever change his life. The men coerce him into dinner and drinks to discuss a possible job opportunity, but wind up getting Solomon so drunk that he passes out. When he awakes, he comes to find out that he was kidnapped and sold as a slave and is sent down South.
The film, although powerful and intriguing is quite difficult to watch. With a title such as 12 Years a Slave, one must take into account that there will be a good portion of the film filled with torturous, gut wrenching scenes. There is a lot of violence, especially when it comes to beating and whipping. The torture is at times too intense to bear. It’s raw and almost too realistic.
The acting especially by the star, Ejiofor is outstanding. He carries this film perfectly. His character is captivating because unlike some of the other slaves, Solomon-but later on throughout the film he is known as Platt- knows what he was being deprived of. He had a great education, a wife and children, a beautiful home and money. Ejiofor's performance is truly noteworthy; his emotions are on point through every single scene. He takes the audience on an emotional roller coaster ride, and his character is both influential and strong-minded. Another notable performance was by Michael Fassbender, who portrayed Edwin Epps, a man who the audience loves to hate. He was evil, and intimidating. His character is one of the few plantation owners that Solomon lives under, and becomes obsessed with a young African American girl who is also a slave under his powers, Pastey, portrayed by Lupita Nyong'o. Her character is absolutely tragic. Of course majority of the characters portrayed in this film are horrifically unfortunate, but some might argue that she had it the worst. Nyong’o represents a beautiful young girl, that is constantly struggling between Edwin and his wife (because his wife is terribly jealous of her) and her own inner struggles. Nyong’o was compelling and emotional. Her scenes were some of the most brutal in the film. She was great as this tragic, grief-stricken woman showcasing the hardships that the slaves endured during this dreadful time period.
12 Years a Slave was beautifully shot, with some flashbacks intertwined throughout the film. The film actually begins when the film is almost over, and then it flashes back to how this nightmarish story originates.
12 Years a Slave is highly recommended to anyone who is interested in a heartbreaking tale filled with emotional drama and witnessing one of the most horrific and disturbing periods in American history. Also, to anyone who enjoys great acting, great film-making and a film that is graced with a gripping story of how one man struggles to constantly overcome the impossible.
Keep the children home for this film, and check it out in theaters today!