Coming to theatres this Friday from director Steve McQueen and Fox Searchlight Pictures comes a tale long in the telling about 12 YEARS A SLAVE.
This film tells the story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man living in New York with his family. Finding extra work while his wife is away is more than Solomon could have imagined when he is kidnapped and sold into slavery.
Transported to the south he is put up for auction by Freeman (Paul Giamatti) who sells him to a man named Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch). It is clear that Ford is no ordinary plantation owner whose heart is not in treating Solomon any less a man. When trouble starts Ford sees only one way out.
That’s when Solomon is sent to Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), a cruel man who uses the Bible to his own purposes. When Mrs. Epps (Sarah Paulson) discovers her husband’s affinity for the slave girl Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) life on the plantation becomes even crueler.
It would be a chance meeting that brings to reality the hope that Solomon has clung too being 12 years a slave!
FINAL WORD: Ejiofor as Solomon is an elegant actor, and this role does take some elegance to perform. Watching the years of struggle to maintain some semblance of what he was prior to his kidnapping is amazing to watch. Watching Ejiofor there is deliberateness in each choice he makes, including the choices that are horrifying in every sense of the word. This is a stellar performance by an equally stellar actor.
Fassbender is frightening in the role of Epps. There is no doubt that this role is astonishing as Epps is a man who claims righteousness and excuses away the bending of that righteousness for his own benefit. There is nothing about this performance I didn’t like yet everything about this performance that was difficult to watch. Another incredible performance by an actor who seems to take chances with every role he takes.
Cumberbatch as Ford was so sad to watch. A man clearly in the wrong era trying to make things word. Knowing that owning a human being was clearly wrong he seemed wrapped up in a time where what was clearly wrong and what was expected could almost force a man into insanity. Giamatti as Freeman is an actor who everything he performs leaves its own unique mark. The role was small yet had an impact.
Nyong’o as Patsey is a character I just wanted to scream at the screen ‘Run! Just run!’ and knowing where that running would lead – back to the same horrors. What an absolutely beautiful performance.
Two other mentions here – Paul Dano as Tibeats is such a cruel character but based in such fear. Dano has always been a favorite of mine and with this film and PRISONERS earlier this year he has proven why. Alfre Woodard as Mistress Shaw portrays a character that few know even existed during this time period. Having no fear in a place full of fear, Woodard captures a mystery single handedly.
Other cast include: Dwight Henry as Uncle Abram, Bryan Batt as Judge Turner, Ashley Dyke as Anna, Kelsey Scott as Anne Northrup, Scoot McNairy as Brown, Chris Chalk as Clemens, Liza J. Bennett as Mistress Ford, Alfre Woodard as Mistress Shaw, Brad Pitt as Bass and Paul Dano as Tibeats.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give 12 YEARS A SLAVE four and a half tubs of popcorn out of five. There is no denying that this is a difficult film to watch. The characters are each fearless, the story does not allow any emotional rest and the cinematography is as cold and cruel as Epps himself yet there are moments of great warm and spirituality.
12 YEARS A SLAVE is a book by Solomon Northrup that sold over 30,000 copies in 1853. Almost 100 years later two historians from Louisiana State University, in the early 1960’s researched Northrup’s journey and wrote about it in 1968. Director Steve McQueen has now brought the story to the screen.
The music is absolutely brilliant and, when words could not express the emotion it often brought viewers to tears. This is definitely a film that covers all corners of the human spirit and rounds them out with intense conversation that are sure to follow every viewing of the film.
In the end – the extraordinary true story of Solomon Northrup!
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