Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
This is a true story based on an 1853 book titled “Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, a citizen of New-York, kidnapped in Washington city in 1841, and rescued in 1853, from a cotton plantation near the Red River in Louisiana.”
That pretty much sums up the new Steve McQueen movie “12 Years a Slave” -- currently playing at Tropic Cinema.
But the movie is more than that. Starring British actor Chiwetelu Umeadi “Chiwetel” Ejiofor as the aforementioned Solomon Northup, it’s a paeon to our thirst for freedom.
Along with Ejiofor, you’ll encounter Michael Fassbender as a cruel plantation owner; Benedict Cumberbatch as a mild-mannered slave owner; Brad Pitt as a Canadian carpenter; Quvenzhané Wallis as Northup’s daughter; along with supporting performances by Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard, and Paul Dano.
McQueen’s purpose was to help us address that blot on American history -- slavery. “I went into this film to try to embrace the issue, and master it, and make it mine, as such,” he says. “I was trying to look for a way into the tale, and the way in for me was the story of a free man who gets caught into slavery. And, what I liked about that was that everybody can relate to being taken away from your family, so you're on that journey with him.”
Did the Brit-born director accomplish his mission? “I think the film has begun to help, because people are talking about slavery again,” he said. “We need to just try to keep it in focus and try to have that conversation. It’s a difficult one, but a necessary one.”
In “12 Years a Slave,” McQueen forces us to watch such atrocities as hangings, whippings, and rape.
“Survive, survive, survive, that’s the biggest thing,” says McQueen. "Ultimately I’m here today because some members of my ancestors survived slavery in whatever way they could. They had to deal with it by simply surviving.”
Talk about man’s inhumanity to man. This is a movie that will seriously break your heart.