12 Years a Slave Reviews
SCOTT: (Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond) Totally agree, Gregger. Quite a powerful movie.
GREG: We re introduced to Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free Negro living in Saratoga Springs, NY in the year 1841. While his wife and children are on a 3-week trip, he is invited by a pair of circus owners to travel with them to Washington D.C. and play violin in their orchestra. Solomon isn t long in D.C. when one day he wakes up in a cellar with shackles on his hands and feet.
SCOTT: Solomon tries to explain to his captors that he is a free man from New York, but he learns the hard way that the more he speaks the truth of his identity, the more brutally he is beaten. He is taken by boat to the deep south where he must live the life of a slave. Some of his white slave owners are crueler than others. One particularly evil master nearly kills him, and he is sold to another who is just as bad. The entire movie portrays Solomon s attempt to maintain his dignity as he seeks to restore his freedom under the most horrific of conditions.
GREG: Scott, this movie provides a vivid look at the inhumanity of slavery in the old South. It will draw comparisons to the Summer s The Butler for a look into the lives of how Blacks have been treated in America. The most compelling thing about this film is that it is the story of how a free man is cast into slavery. We see Solomon in his ordinary world, a full citizen with all the rights and privileges of any other man in his town of Saratoga. And literally overnight he is stripped of his identity and cast into a world where revealing that you know how to read and write could mean your death. The stark contrast between these two worlds makes his story at once chilling and compelling.
SCOTT: 12 Years a Slave is hard to watch but it must be watched. Our ability to learn from man s inhumanity to man is very much dependent on our willingness to see and confront the very worst ways humans have treated each other. For that reason we must see movies about the holocaust, about genocide, about torture, about slavery. And then we must do everything in our power to ensure that these atrocities are never repeated. There are dozens of scenes in 12 Years as a Slave that portray horrific suffering, and the suffering is physical, emotional, and spiritual. There are scenes of brutality that are too terrible to bear, but bear them we must. Are these scenes over the top? If they were not true, perhaps so. But their veracity justifies their need to be shown, to be disgusted by, and to be learned from.
GREG: The impact of this story is how we can walk in this man s shoes - asking ourselves What if this happened to me? What if one day I woke up in chains with no way of getting home? The concept of it boggles the mind. This is the strength of director Steve McQueen s and writer John Ridley s storytelling. They have successfully drawn us into this man s nightmare and made us feel his pain. Solomon s story represents a classic hero s journey. We meet him in his ordinary world where he is a free man. Then something terrible happens and he is cast into the special world of slavery in the deep South. He is separated from friends and family and must face enemies and make allies in this new world. The rules here are different and he must learn to maneuver in this strange place and learn the rules or suffer the consequences. The consequences in this case are the lash of the whip or even death.
SCOTT: Greg, the casting in 12 Years a Slave is phenomenal. All the actors deserve kudos for their remarkable portrayals of toughness and strength, anguish and despair, hatred and love, heroism and villainy. Chiwetel Ejiofor in particular jolts us into the reality of enslavement and the tragic toll that enslavement takes on our mind, body, and spirit. Ejiofor most certainly deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. We see and vicariously experience the pain and anguish of the slaves. We are shown various gradations of evil among the white slave owners, who range from heinously evil and vicious, to moderately cruel, to empathetic yet still condoning of the barbarous system. There are also nuanced differences among the slaves, from actively rebellious, to reluctantly submissive, to utterly defeated.
GREG: I don t think it s giving too much away to say that Solomon eventually returns home since the title is 12 Years a slave. When he does, he returns as the master of two worlds - the world of a free man and the world of a slave. We learn in the epilog that he goes on to fight against slavery as an abolitionist and member of the underground railroad. This is the fulfillment of his hero s journey: coming home with the elixir - the knowledge of what it is to be enslaved and the resolve to see slavery ended. 12 Years a Slave is as powerful a movie as any we ve seen this year. It s a painfully honest look at what it was to be a slave in the Antebellum South. It s one of those movies that we must watch so that we never forget and so that it can never happen again. I give 12 Years 5 out of 5 Reels and Solomon Northrup 5 Heroes out of 5. Movie: Hero:
SCOTT: Gotta agree with you, Greg. 12 Years a Slave is a searing look at the worst form of human abomination, namely, the disgrace of brutal slavery. If you re not in tears when you watch the relentless suffering, if your heart isnt bursting when you witness the powerful final scene of the movie, then you have no human heart. This is one of the year s best films and I nominate it for our REEL HEROES Hall of Fame. It most certainly deserves the full 5 Reels as well as an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. And as you so aptly point out, it portrays the hero s journey most powerfully in its full form, earning it the full 5 Heroes as well. Movie: Hero:
12 years a slave is based on Solomon Northup's suffering as a slave. Solomon Northup was kidnapped in 1841 in New York and sold to slavery where he survives 12 years of torture and hard labour. The movie begins with a scene where Solomon Northup and other slaves are tendering sugarcane. The slaves led by Solomon Northup are mistreated in Sugar plantations even though Solomon manages to use his skills as a musician to gain favours from Master Ford (Northup, 2013). Solomon Northup was later transferred to the Cotton fields where he met the cruel Edwin Epps as the master. Under Edwin Epps, Solomon Northup experiences new form of barbarity especially to the frail Patsy. Edwin Epps mistreats slaves and a number of them are whipped. Solomon Northup while with Robert exclaims, '' I will not despair, I will wait till my freedom comes'' (Northup, 2013). Consequently, Robert while talking to Clemens states, '' we cannot allow to be mistreated by Epps, we have to fight'' (Northup, 2013). The development of the story in this movie is highly pegged on the suffering of the slaves and how they developed a sense of rebellion led by Solomon Northup (Northup, 2013).
The Movie 12 years a slave tackles the issue of slavery appropriately. The cast develops the main theme appropriately with Solomon Northup depicting how the slaves were mistreated and Edwin Epps showing how cruel the slave masters were. While talking to Mistress Epps, Edwin Epps states that, '' I will get rid of you before I go for Patsey''. This conversation gives the viewers of this film a sneak preview of how the slave masters were cruel to the slaves at the extend of threatening the lives of their own relatives (Li, 2014). The main theme is therefore vividly brought about by the movie director of this film. All the effects of Slavery have been shown with a majority of slaves suffering at the hands of the plantation owners.
Ideally, the cast of 12 Years a slave is comprised of experienced actors who help in bringing out the themes and its intended purpose very well Li, 2014). Solomon Northup, Edwin Epps, Patsey, and Brad Pitt lead a star studded line up which makes 12 years a slave an exciting film that meets its mandate of tackling the issue of slavery and its effects. The inclusion of the best actors in movie industries gives 12 years a slave an exceptional touch which originates from the popularity of this cast in various films that they have been involved in. Solomon Northup demonstrates vividly how the aspect of slavery is rife in America with a supporting role from Patsey and other actors.
Therefore, viewing 12 Years a Slave is recommended because of its demonstration that slavery was evil, an amazing cast led by Michael Fassbander, Brad Pitt and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Also, 12 years a slave manages to recapture what other movies have failed and this is incorporation of both societal, economic and political injustices to a fantastic cast.
|9,3 out of 10|
Now of course we've all heard about and seen films about this shameful part of history, but seeing it so frankly portrayed through the eyes of such an investing character means that it hits home far more. That's thanks in part of course to Chiwetel Ejiofor's oscar-winning performance, but its coupling that with the bravery of the filmmakers to go all the way that means things are as hard-hitting as they are.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Occasionally the delivery of certain elements take you out of it as the odd bit of sound design, cinematography and editing do bring the filmmaking a little too far into the foreground for its own good.
VERDICT: A powerful, disturbing and brave movie that does what all about this subject should do; '12 Years a Slave' is a film that everyone should see. Period.
The acting is all spectacular. A lot of moments are told through looks and body language instead of dialogue. Chiwetel Ejiofor is one of my favorite living actors, and he did spectacular in 12 Years a Slave. My favorite of his costars was Michael Fassbender who plays a nearly insane slave owner. The interplay between these two guys is amazing. The only performance that didn't work all that well was Brad Pitt. His character came out of nowhere abruptly and was just too good to be true. It didn't flow with the rest of the film.
I know there is a lot of importance in making films about slavery, because it's possibly the darkest part of American history. That doesn't make 12 Years a Slave enjoyable to watch, though. It was a drag having to fight my way through this movie and crying with it at the end. Now that I've seen it I feel no need to watch it again. I'm not criticizing anything, it's just a tough movie to swallow. It was made even more impactful when they revealed it was based on a true story. 12 Years a Slave is not my favorite type of movie, but it's one I'm glad I've seen.
Despite being fiction, it's a great piece of entertainment.