Monday, March 10, 2014


Chiwetel Eijofor, Lupita Nyong'o,
Michael Fassbender,  Sarah Paulson

"The Extraordinary True Story of Solomon Northup"

Any movie that handles the heavy theme of slavery is bound to be graphically violent. It is inherent to depict brutality to provide authenticity to the essence of the movie. Director Steve McQueen did an excellent job in constantly presenting complex emotions and thoughts manifested through the struggles of one man through such visual means. The vast cotton fields and painted skies of Louisiana provide an excellent backdrop to the terrible torment of Solomon Northup.

The film is based on the memoirs of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who was a free black man living in Saratoga, New York with his wife and two children in the 1800s. Lured to Washington, D.C under false pretenses, he wakes up bound and chained and is eventually sold to a plantation owner even though he insisted he is a free man.

Eventually, he is sold to a ruthless cotton farm owner (Michael Fassbender) and we bear witness to his daily hardships - a horrible existence that lasts for 12 years.

It is not easy to watch as there are several cringe moments which will make you avert your eyes away from the blood, the torn flesh, sweat and tears that abounds in many frames. But at the same time, these scenes are sporadic, well edited and serve the larger story of a man starved of his freedom.   There is also an underlying tone (however small it is) of hope, survival and a never giving up stance that sustains Solomon.

Much of the story plays out across the facial expressions of Ejiofor. A talented British actor whose repertoire of films consisted mostly of supporting roles. Here as Solomon Northup, he is devastatingly effective with a subdued performance that will tug at your heart strings. Even though he didn't get the Best Actor Oscar for this role, he will no doubt be long remembered for his heartbreaking characterization of a wronged man

When Solomon utters the line "I don't want to survive ... I want to live", you want to believe him even though you silently know it would mean having his soul crushed to its very core before he can achieve his desire.

"12 years a Slave" is a well executed film about slavery that neither condones nor glorify a period that has left an indelible mark in American history. It simply presents one long chapter among several stories about slavery in America.

With raw and brutal honesty, the devastating tale of Solomon Northup is  essayed in "12 Years a Slave",  in the hope that it won't ever be repeated.

This even as we all know that slavery (human trafficking) is still as rampant today as it was centuries ago, unfortunately!

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