|A scene from the award-winning 12 Years a Slave|
Director: Steve McQueen.
Cast: Chiwetel Ejifor, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti and Paul Dano.
Run Time: 2hr and 13 mins.
The highly acclaimed film, which features our very own Lupita Nyong’o is based on the memoir by Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a black man born into freedom in New York State in 1808.
He is a happily married father, and an accomplished and well-to-do violinist who is enticed to Washington DC by two men who offer him a job for a couple of weeks in their circus, playing the violin. However, it soon quickly transpires that they are conmen who have the intention to sell him into slavery in the Deep South.
At the time, slaves could no longer be imported from Africa, but there was a lucrative but illegal business in kidnapping free men and women from the North where slavery had been disbanded and selling them to the South, where slavery was still legal.
Solomon is then renamed Platt and is first sold to plantation owner Ford, before being sold to the cruel and abusive plantation owner Edwin Epps. Although he is cruel to all his slaves it is Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) one of Solomon’s closest friends who suffers most, both sexually and physically. We get to watch as Solomon and his friends struggle to survive and maintain their humanity.
The script is well written and the story is rich in depth. It is brutal in its portrayal of slavery; it does not shy away from being offensive, as its goal is to tell a real story about real people in the most authentic manner possible.
It contains many shocking and moving scenes. In one scene, Ejiofor character is strung up from a tree as punishment and is left in the noose for hours on end, and in another, Nyong’o character is tied to a tree and whipped while naked.
When it comes to acting, the cast gives performances worthy of the Oscars. Chiwetel Ejiofor is sensational in the lead role as Solomon Northup, delivering a moving performance that will put your to tears on many occasions.
Lupita also gives a worthy performance as Patsey; although she takes on a supporting role in the film, you will definitely carry the memory of her character long after the film comes to an end.
It is disjointed in some instances, in particular when Northup passes from owner to owner, it breaks the film’s pacing and it takes a while before it gets back to normal. Also it is about 30 minutes too long.
Yes, it is a work of film art, but it is not for the faint hearted or for those who love the superficiality in films. It is not easy to watch, it’s gruesome and uncompromising in its portrayal of human suffering, there is no sugar coating here.