Movie Review: 12 Years a Slave

12 Years a SlaveTitle: “12 Years a Slave”

Director: Steve McQueen

Writers: John Ridley

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael K. Williams, Michael Fassbender

My rating 5 out of 5 stars

Solomon Northup was a born free black man and lived in New York prior to the end of slavery in the United States. Going on a tour that eventually took him to Washington D.C., he took ill one evening and awoke to find himself in chains and told he was a runaway slave named Platt. Kidnapped and sold into slavery, he spent the next 12 years of his life laboring on plantations in the Deep South until he was rescued.

Based on Solomon Northup’s book of the same name, which tells his real-life story, “12 Years a Slave” is difficult to watch. There are numerous floggings, scenes of physical and sexual abuse, violence, and betrayal. However, I would compare this to “Schindler’s List” in a couple of ways. First, while it is difficult to watch, it is also a film that you feel you must watch and endure because it’s a retelling of a true and sorry chapter in U.S. history. Secondly, it’s a film that his historically important. It chronicles this chapter and reminds us that we should not forget the wrongs that were done.

As of this writing, I have read part of the book this film is based on, and the movie stays fairly close to the book, although it makes some significant changes. However, they are not changes that detract from the movie, and were clearly done for editing purposes and time constraints. For example, most of the parts that discuss how a plantation operates are not in the movie, certain people are combined into single characters, and things of that nature. In no way do these changes detract from the impact this movie leaves.

While the acting is excellent, the directing and the editing are phenomenally well done. It’s clear that Steve McQueen had a real passion for telling this story, and it comes through to impact the audience. This is difficult to watch, but it is also difficult to forget, and it stays with you as a powerful film should.

“12 Years a Slave” earns 5 out of 5 stars.

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