12 Years a Slave: A Review

12-years-a-slave

Wow! After going to the theatre to see American Hustle, rather than return to an empty house, I thought, “the night is young.” I decided to catch the late showing of this Oscar front runner.

12 Years a Slave was the true tale of Solomon Northup, a free-born African American man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841. I watched his harrowing journey played out episodically  for what was a 12 year period.

This was a graphically punishing film that moved me tremendously. It was cinematically beautiful at times and yet horrible as I witnessed the degradation of slavery. Never before had I seen it depicted so. It had me crying out in anguish at the suffering on screen. The dialogue was sparse yet rang true.

Chiwetel Ejiofor was mesmerizing as Northup. He was introduced as a happy, loving and all too trusting family man who was  lured from his Northern home, robbed of his identity and sold into slavery. I watched with sadness as he transformed from a man of hope and principles to one focused on survival teetering at the edge of despair. Not only did I see his misery but there was plenty to go around to a strong supporting cast. Lupita Nyongo deserves special mention for her heart-rending portrayal of long suffering Patsey, a fellow plantation slave who was subjected to the unwanted attention of the master, played by Michael Fassbender. Her cries for the welcome and merciful release of death are still ringing in my ears. Brad Pitt had a small yet pivotal role that left me feeling proud to be a Canadian.

Despite the grim subject matter, this is an important film that should be seen. That it was directed by acclaimed British director, Steve McQueen is interesting. After this exchange with Spike Lee (actually its just a fun spoof), McQueen seems like a classy guy who deserves to be recognized for this monumental work of art in the upcoming Oscars.

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