Directed by: Steve McQueen
With this film having won the Oscar for Best Picture, it has been re-released back into theaters and is playing to packed houses, and that’s a really good thing, as we, living here in the 21st century honestly have no real understanding of what this shameful period in our history was like and that by simply wishing it away will make it all better. No, it really happened, it was morally reprehensible, and now it is time to look openly and honestly at our past shame.
In the pre-Civil War United States, a free Black man named Solomon Northup (Ejiofor), who lived in upstate New York, was lured to Washington D.C. was abducted and then sold into slavery. Unable to plead his case, call for help, or escape to freedom, he was forced into living the life of a slave for 12 years until he found a White man who sympathized with his plight and helped him achieve his freedom. However, for those 12 long years he found himself facing both cruelty at the hands of a malevolent slave owner, as well as unexpected kindnesses from others.
Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity, something not easily done when he can’t display his intelligence (that he can read and write), or even that he is an accomplished violinist. He must put up with the loss of his freedom, and being removed from his family, even as he is forced to do the bidding of men who will have him beaten for the slightest reason.
Throughout the film we can see the pain and suffering of Northrop through the expressive face and body language of Ejiofor, who delivered a stellar performance. If you haven’t seen this film as of yet, It is most assuredly one that should cause you to get up off your couch, venture out into the world and check it out. It is perhaps one of the most important films you will see this year.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.