Most of us learned about the Underground Railroad in school. That was the system of underground tunnels that led many slaves to freedom in the Northern states. What we didn't learn about is that there was also a trade of kidnapping free African-Americans from the North and selling them to plantations in the South. One such person who went through that experience was Solomon Northup. He later wrote a book about his experience, "12 Years a Slave" which has now been turned into a movie opening today, November 1, in South Florida.
Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) was a family man living in upstate New York and was a popular violinist. On a trip away from his family he is drugged and wakes to find himself in chains, his protests of being a free man go unheard. He spends the next 12 years as a slave working for some real despicable people. The fact that he survived the ordeal is a small miracle in itself.
Chiwetel Ejiofor has always been a strong actor and in "12 Years a Slave" he really brings it. Michael Fassbender has been getting a lot of praise for his supporting role in the movie as a sadistic slave owner, but at the end of the day Ejiofor is the real story. Lupita Nyong'o, who plays another slave on the plantation is also superb. Paul Dano also stars in the movie and if his character doesn't make your stomach turn, you must be made of stone.
Some people were offended by last year's movie, "Django Unchained" especially by the use of the N-word. If you were one of those people then you should stay far away from "12 years a Slave". This is a movie about slavery and it doesn't sugar coat it. There are time this movie is very difficult to watch. There were some very evil men who owned people they viewed as their "property" and took great pleasure in taunting them, torturing them and even raping them. When was the last time you raped your toaster over?
"12 Years a Slave" is a powerful story and the technical aspects of the movie help bring that to light even more. Sean Bobbitt's cinematography can be described as breathtaking. According Wikipedia he shot the movie using 35mm film using a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. For those who claim that "Film is dead." should really see this movie. The visual effects and makeup are the main reason you may be averting your eyes at times. The drawback to some audience members will probably be is how depressing this movie is for such a long period of time. This period if our country's history was hardly happy times.
You can be certain that come award season "12 Years a Slave" will be racking up nominations left and right. It has an excellent chance to win some acting awards and technical ones too. Winning Best Picture may be more difficult given the hard subject matter, but no one will be yelling "boo" if it does win some. It is rated R for violence/cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality.