CLICK HERE to watch the official trailer for 12 Years a Slave.
12 Years a Slave is now playing across Hampton Roads.
By now you have surely heard the buzz about 12 Years a Slave. You’ve probably heard that it’s brutal, that it’s emotional, that it’s disturbing, and you may have heard that it’s fantastic. Well, all of that is absolutely true.
Writer John Ridley adapted the true story for the screen from Solomon Northrup’s 1853 autobiography, and British director Steve McQueen brings it to life.
12 Years a Slave is the story of Solomon Northrup (Chewetel Ejiofor) a free man, an educated man, who is also a talented violin player. It begins with him living with his wife and two children in the North pre-Civil War. He is soon tricked and sold into slavery and shipped off to the deep South. Unable to prove his freedom, he is given the name Platt and spends the next 12 years under various masters and enduring some unbelievable circumstances.
Solomon/Platt is confronted time and again with threats and beatings, while watching as other slaves are raped, beaten and killed in front of him. The last master he serves is Mr. Epps (Michael Fassbender). Epps is a psychopath and his wife is not much better. A young slave girl named Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o in her film debut) is the object of both their attention for different reasons; I’m sure you can decipher. Patsey also endures the wrath of both of them. Her scenes of desparation are heartbreaking. I cannot say enough good things about Nyong’o's performance — it was a breakthrough career-making performance. I just can’t.
Chiwetel Ejiofor (Amistad, 2012) gives an Oscar-calibur performance as Solomon. He plays Solomon with utter commitment in every scene, with an understated despair, and with a tinge of hope that is simply amazing. And coming off the horrible turn in The Counsleor, Michael Fassbender redeems himself. His take on the slave owner Epps embodies great acting.
I am going to give John Ridley some kudos — he did the story and co-wrote the screenplay for Red Tails, which I was less than happy with. He has certainly proven his ability with this screenplay… The only flaw I had was the developmnt and forced dialogue of Brad Pitt’s character. But it hardly hurts the film. Congrats to Ridley on a fine script.
McQueen bites off a lot here, and he does an excellent job of doing an unimaginable story justice. There are scenes that resonate and scenes that haunt. He doesn’t take the ugly mark of slavery on American history and tie it up with a pretty presentable bow for an audience that might not be ready to see the harsh brutality of real slavery endurance. He does it justice, something many Hollywood attempts have fallen short of. But be prepared, this film sugarcoats nothing, and should be seen by everyone.
12 Years a Slave is destined to be named over and over again at the Oscar nomination announcements. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Score… all should be locked in. And moreover — the film should be destined for cinematic history as well.
FIVE OUT OF FIVE COOKIES
Rated R for violence/cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality.