The Life of Solomon
Husband, father, musician and free black man; Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) finds his freedom stolen from him when he agrees to go and play music for a couple of gentleman in another state only to wake up in chains and being sold in to slavery. Adamant he is a free man Solomon finds himself firstly sold to Mr. Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) who appreciates Solomon's skills and intelligence and sends him to work for cotton farmer Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) when Solomon's life is in danger from one of his workers hell bent on killing him. But life working for Edwin is a rollercoaster as Epps has a fondness for slave girl Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o) but is also a belligerent drunk who enjoys taunting Solomon who over many years finds himself having to face many difficult choices just to survive.
I can't remember the last time I watched a movie which came in over 2 hours where time just flew past. It is a sensation which comes from a collective of right things and "12 Years a Slave" is a collective of those right things starting with Steve McQueen's direction. Here is a director who has his priorities in order because he allows the power of the story to be the star of the movie but he then allows the actors to bring the story to life through their skills and their understanding of the characters. And then and only then do you get the director putting his own stamp on the movie with the camera movements and artistic shots. Sounds simple but so many movies are spoiled by directors who put things in the wrong order and it is a joy to watch a movie done right.
But as I said there is the acting and I say acting loosely because this felt more like a group of people living their roles and that is what it called for. From some brutal scenes of slavery involving whipping and beating to actors using the N word this felt like you were there in range of every spray of blood as the whip hit. And it's because these actors made it feel real, natural and organic rather than rehearsed when it came to their interactions that you find yourself captivated even when you are feeling repulsed by these acts of slavery.
And then there is the storyline, a storyline of personal and social injustice, a storyline which makes you sick even when it comes to its conclusion and a storyline which makes you question how anyone could think like the men and women portrayed in this movie. But I can't bring myself to go in to any more depth when it comes to the story because I went in to this movie with little knowledge other than it being a true story about slavery and I think that is probably the best way to tackle it.
What this all boils down to is that "12 Years a Slave" is a contradiction of a movie because the storyline should make you feel repulsed and in truth it does but the movie is so well made that you find yourself captivated by the unfolding drama. I will end with this, when I see that a movie is getting hyped up by the masses I often doubt how good that movie is, thinking that many are hyping it because it is cool to be seen doing so, but "12 Years a Slave" is genuinely one of those movies which is deserving of the praise it received.