Last night through the power of my Cineworld unlimited card I got to see an advance screening of 2013’s critically acclaimed film, 12 Years a Slave. After this film dropped in the US there was a lot of Oscar talk, so I was expecting a hell of a lot prior to watching it. So does it deliver or not? Well read on and find out!
The story can be described as the following:
“In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty at the hands of a malevolent slave owner, 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 will forever alter his life.”
I thought the story was a dramatic piece of work that was emotional and intense from very early on. There are themes of racism, slavery, love, trial and endurance. Solomon’s journey is one that takes place over a longs space of time, in a number of locations and the film does well to cover everything thanks to its non-linear storytelling. The film doesn’t hold back on the level of cruelty and violence, it is in your face and even after seeing a lot of film depicting the hardships of people of the black variety, this film still finds a way to be shocking and hard to watch. As I’ve said before on this blog, as a black guy, watching films like this is always kind of hard because this kind of stuff happened in real life many years ago, it’s part of my people’s history, so to see adaptations of what they went through is difficult at points.
When it comes to the cast they were all incredible offering up some truly lovely performances. Chiwetel Ejiofor pretty much gives the performance of his life as Solomon Northup. Solomon is well-spoken, talented and a respected man in his community before being bought into slavery where he has to endure hardships of the hardest kind, where he suffers at the hands of many white people while longing for his family and freedom. Ejiofor’s performance is stellar throughout, it is a sight to behold and there is a point where his acting make me tear up too, it was really emotional. The next great performance comes from Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps. The best way to describe Fassbender in one word is: monster. He is a monster. Edwin Epps is disgusting, cruel, intimidating, doesn’t like anybody who isn’t on the same page as him, has no respect from black people and treats them like disposable objects. Since X-Men: First Class Fassbender has excelled in every role he’s been in, but I feel like this is his best role to date as it was so real and aggressive, hopefully he’ll get noticed for some awards.
Lupita Nyong’o makes her film debut as Patsey here and she is REALLY good, her character gets put through so much drama Nyong’o handles her material with a great deal of emotional depth. Sarah Paulson as Mary Epps is pretty good as Edwin’s wife, she has her own issues and levels of cruelty towards black people. Benedict Cumberbatch is great as William Ford being one of the kinder variety of white people who interacts with Solomon on his journeys, it was weird to hear Cumberbatch in an American accent but I thought he was really good in his role.
I really liked Brad Pitt as Samuel Bass, his character was this perceptive man who could see the injustice in slavery and wasn’t afraid to speak out about it. Paul Dano is very good as John Tibeats, a subordinate on William Ford’s plantation, he was another horrible guy who took pride in his hatred for black people and had no toleration for disobedience. Paul Giamatti as Theophilus Freeman was another horrible, unsympathetic and horrible character who is impossible to like. Not too long ago I enjoyed seeing Giamatti as a lovely man in Saving Mr Banks and here he’s on the opposite end of the spectrum which just shows how talented he is. Oh and a shout out goes to Scoot McNairy as Brown and Michael K. Williams as Robert as they were good in the film too.
In conclusion 12 Years a Slave is simply put, a beautiful and painful beast of a film which has some of the best performances from the actors/actresses involved. I was still thinking about the film on the walk home as my heart was still beating It is dramatic and very intense and if you can handle the level of violence then I recommend the film very highly, if this had come out last year for us in the UK it would be at number 2 or 1 on my top ten list.
Rating 9/10 (If I gave it a rating any lower I feel like I would be doing this film a disservice)
So for all those who have seen 12 Years a Slave what did you think of it? Whatever your thoughts drop them in the comments below and I’ll see ya on the next review yo 🙂