The extraordinary true story of Solomon Northup; a review of 12 Years a Slave (2013)

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I really can’t think of a good joke to start off this review. This movie was, straight up, depressing as hell.

My aunt and I went into uncharted territory  to the Embassy Cinema in Waltham, MA. The theater was very old fashioned and the seats were surprisingly quite comfortable. Not even that made this movie any happier, though.

12 Years a Slave (2013) stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, whose name I still cannot pronounce, who plays Solomon Northup, the titular slave of 12 years. Northup lives as a free man in upstate, New York until he is abducted and sold into slavery.

This was a very tough movie to get through. Director Steve McQueen pulled out all the stops and certainly showed us the harsh living conditions of a slave in the 1800s. This isn’t like Django Unchained (2012). Ejiofor isn’t gonna just pick up two pistols and blow everyone away while Tupac Shakur plays in the background. No, instead he and other slaves are going to get whipped, and get whipped HARD. There’s one scene in particular that I’m thinking of that is very difficult to watch. Most of the situations go from bad to worse… Then worse than that. Also just the REALNESS of everything really hits you in this movie. Slaveowners are/were TERRIBLE HUMAN BEINGS. They basically treat their slaves like Pokémon cards and trade them like they were nothing. Separating mothers from their children, bidding on them, bartering and haggling, etc.

This is the third feature with McQueen in the director’s seat. I’ve actually never seen his other two, Shame (2011) and Hunger (2008). His style was something I took note of when watching this movie. He uses long, wide shots that focus on one subject and what’s going on around him/her and often leaves the camera lingering on the background of the scene after characters have vacated the frame before cutting to the next scene. I felt like he was trying to capture the essence of the surroundings in that scene to really give viewers a front row seat and immerse us into the lifestyle and living conditions that these slaves had to live in. The cinematography was really nice in this movie as well, with closeups of characters’ faces to capture their emotion. Definitely using a telephoto lens, there, so keep the face in focus and absolutely nothing else. I’ve always been a fan of closeups like that.

Ejiofor gives an outstanding performance as Northup as he refuses to give in to despair. You see his turmoil in his actions and facial expressions throughout the entire film. Indeed, it is a difficult role to play. Northup is put in scenarios that almost anyone these days could not handle and his strength gets him through it. He refuses to give into these slaveowners and will take on whips and belts and more. It’s tough to see a man who was once free have all of this stripped from him and to see him as nothing but a petty slave. When this movie gets nominations at the oscars, and believe me, it will, expect to see Chiwetel Ejiofor get a nomination for best actor.

Michael Fassbender plays Edwin Epps, the slaveowner who owns Northup. This is probably one of the most evil people in movies I have ever seen. An incredibly difficult, let alone horrible role to play for any actor. Fassbender continues to amaze me and owns this role. I know I already made a comparison to Django but this is basically Leonardo DiCaprio‘s role in that movie, but not Tarantino-ized. HE IS A TERRIBLE PERSON. Not to knock Leo, he played his part the way it was supposed to be played; but Fassbender definitely played HIS part the way it was supposed to be played as well.  He’s one of the best actors in the industry right now, and he’s sure to see some love from the academy when nominations come out.

12 Years a Slave Fassbender Ejiofor

There are other actors with small roles in this movie, such as Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Paul Dano, hell even Taran Killam is in this movie! They all played their roles very well and helped move the story forward; but I feel didn’t have nearly as great an impact as Ejiofor and Fassbender. Those two were like ying and yang.

12 Years a Slave is definitely a tough movie to watch and certainly the toughest movie of the year, I feel. But if you’re a cinephile such as myself, you NEED to see this movie. It’s a fantastic piece and shows off the acting capabilities of everyone in it and just shows the harshness and realness of slave life and how far a man can be pushed.

Overall Rating: 8/10 – Great

Its great movie, but a very depressing movie as well. I’m definitely glad I got it out of the way so I can make room for more positive films. Be sure to look out for a review of Saving Mr. Banks (2013) because I’m sure that’s the next movie I’ll be seeing, since it looks to be the exact opposite of this.

-Reed

PS Hans Zimmer does the score for this film and it is FANTASTIC

IMAGES: http://www.impawards.com/2013/posters/twelve_years_a_slave_xlg.jpg, http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-PG5B5wbmy5Y/UpEHXAEqrgI/AAAAAAAAAa8/zkK9py22CaY/s1600/12+Years+a+Slave+Fassbender+Ejiofor.jpg

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One response to “The extraordinary true story of Solomon Northup; a review of 12 Years a Slave (2013)

  1. Pingback: Where her book ended, their story began; a review of Saving Mr. Banks (2013) | WNS·

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