I Want to Live: Praise for 12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave (doodle by virtualDavis)

12 Years a Slave (doodle by virtualDavis)

Almost 24 hours after watching 12 Years a Slave (movie) I still can’t shake it. The story and characters won’t let go. They’re both still gripping me in technicolor evil. And grace.

If you haven’t seen this Director Steve McQueen’s unflinchingly candid glimpse into the enslavement of free black man Solomon Northup, you need to.

TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE is based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender), as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) will forever alter his life. (Fox Searchlight: 12 Years a Slave)

The film is gripping and visceral. And fair warning, it’s also totally unfiltered and unforgiving. McQueen captures slavery in its least sympathetic and most complex iteration I can recall, plunging into it’s insidious, malignant effect, dehumanizing slave, master end every one in between. 12 Years a Slave is a genuinely immersive experience absent special effects or melodrama. McQueen deploys somewhat unconventional storytelling techniques such as an excruciatingly drawn out scene with Northup hanging from a noose, barely clinging to life, while life returns to normal around him. The juxtaposition of a slow-motion murder amidst quotidian chores and playing children is devastating.

While virtually every actor in 12 Years a Slave delivers a superb performance, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup is riveting. He manages to exude grace in the face of devastating events, transforming a demanding, almost impossibly complex character into one of the most powerful and believable film roles I’ve witnessed in years. Lupita Nyong’o, Michael Fosbender and Brad Pitt also deliver exceptional performances, but I’ll do them and the film injustice if I continue. Just see it for yourself. Here’s a trailer to motivate you.

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2 Comments to “I Want to Live: Praise for 12 Years a Slave”

  1. Kieara Crisp says:

    I love your perspective on the film! Great read

  2. virtualDavis says:

    Thanks for your comment (and complement), Kieara. Hope you get the chance to see the film. It continues to come up daily in conversations. It’s THAT good!

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