Friday, October 18, 2013

Bearing Witness: A Review of 12 Years a Slave

 #moviereview #12YearsASlave

In 1841, Solomon Northrup, a free black man from Saratoga Springs, New York, was kidnapped and sold into slavery.  From 1841 until his rescue in 1853, Mr. Northrup toiled as a slave on the plantations along the Red River in Louisiana.  After his rescue, Mr. Northrup published “Twelve Years a Slave” a narrative account of his experiences as a slave to aid in the abolitionist movement.  160 years after Mr. Northrup’s rescue and 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, director Steve McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley have adapted Solomon Northup’s story for the big screen in 12 Years a Slave.  No words can quite explain the experience of seeing this film.  Like Mr. Northrup, we are plucked from everything we know is good true into the worst nightmare imaginable for a human being.   McQueen does not spare us from any of the violence Northrup and others endure and, in that sense, he and Ridley’s script stay true to the source material, bearing witness cinematically so that we as Americans never forget.  And who could forget the emotions that play across actor Chiwetel Ejiofor’s face as he embodies Mr. Northrup in perilous and heartrending circumstances, the despair in his handsome face speaking so much louder than any dialogue or action on the screen.  Yes, Ejiofor’s performance is that good and he deserves every accolade and award that comes his way.  Likewise the performances of Michael Fassbender as brutish slave owner Epps and newcomer Lupita Nyuong’o as tortured slave woman Patsey are strong and palpable.  I also enjoyed Hans Zimmer’s score, especially for the scenes when Northrup and other captives are being transported down a river.  The churning of the music mimics the churning of the waters and foreshadow a sense of powerlessness and dread.  With this his third feature film, McQueen is proving himself to be one of the best filmmakers of our time.  12 Years a Slave opens today in metro Atlanta theaters.


  1. Brutal yet elegant, 12 Years a Slave is a beautifully rendered punch to the gut about the most shameful chapter in American history.

    Grace Crawford Dr Alex Schnee Knee Doctor Cold Laser

    1. Thanks for reading my blog, Grace. "Brutal yet elegant" sums up the film perfectly.

  2. It speaks to the courage and resilience of one man, the savagery of many, and the potential, for both good and for ill, in us all.


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