“12 Years a Slave” is a brilliant look into slavery in America as portrayed through the story of one man.
The story follows Solomon Northup, (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free man living in Saratoga, N.Y., with his wife and two children. He is lured to Washington, D.C., where he is then sold into slavery. He adopts the name Platt and must conceal his intelligence (hiding his ability to read and write) lest southern white men find him a threat and punish him.
Constant danger and embarrassment follow him as he is treated as less than human, especially by the cotton plantation owner, Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), with little hope of regaining his freedom.
Director Steve McQueen and producer Brad Pitt created an amazing depiction of American history through the story of Solomon Northup. The cinematography is superb; the scenic Louisiana bayou and a typical southern cotton plantation are so breathtaking that the audience will never look away from the screen. The scenery alone, in all its colorfully contrasted glory, is one reason to watch this movie, but the cast, especially Ejiofor and Fassbender, portrayed their characters realistically and flawlessly.
Their acting gives the story a very authentic feel. However, the southern accent combined with 19th century jargon renders some lines a little clich?©. Despite that, the actors’ submersion into their roles, as well as the scenic backdrop, make this movie feel like a piece of history come to life.
The point of the movie is not to mindlessly entertain, but to show the reality and nature of slavery as depicted through the story of a man. The audience is caught up in the film while being educated about the injustices of slavery.
When the movie is over, audience members will be more aware of the advances of freedom this country has seen in the past 150 years. A final warning for those who might lean toward the sensitive side: you will cry.
Emily Balan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.