12 Years A Slave

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With so much Oscar talk buzzing around this film this year, I HAD to see it before the awards ceremony to know whether or not it was gonna clean house. Nominated for several awards, many are predicting that “12 Years A Slave” could be in for a great night come Oscar night. I have read where this film has been compared to “Schindler’s List” in its importance to cinema and it could be said that, on many levels, it succeeds in that regard. Slavery in America was a terrible time in our country’s history and this movie succeeds in showing the relentless brutality towards African-Americans during the late 1800’s. It is not a pretty picture nor is it what I would consider entertainment. As a matter of fact, this movie is almost more of a documentary than entertainment to me…and that is where I lost myself watching it more as historical fact than fiction.

Solomon Northup is a violinist from New York. He lives with his wife & 2 children and is a well-respected man in his community. One night, after working in Washington, DC, he is tricked by 2 men he considers to be his friends and sold as a slave. From there, he is put aboard a boat where he is transported to Georgia and sold in an auction. He is then sold from one owner to the next, working in one plantation or another, while he lives with the hope that one day he can find a way to communicate with his wife and return to his family.

First things first…this IS an amazing movie on many fronts. The acting is top notch, the roles are well defined and the topic of slavery is never watered down. It is very much like “Lincoln” in how it presents the plight of Northup. It doesn’t water down his predicament and when he is sold into slavery without his papers, it is a moment that makes your stomach ache.

Many fantastic performances in this film, especially Chiwetel Ejiofor, who has been nominated for an Oscar in the “Best Actor” category and deservedly so. Michael Fassbender also has a turn as a drunken plantation owner who takes to beating & raping his slaves. Fassbender is also up for an Oscar and could be a dark horse. I thought his performance was spot on. And there is a brief role by newcomer Lupita Nyong’o who plays a slave who is raped and beaten, mostly because of Fassbender’s affection toward her and his wife’s jealousy. Despite her nomination for “Best Supporting Actress”, I thought her limited time on screen will hinder her chance to win, especially since she’s up against Julia Roberts & Jennifer Lawrence.

“12 Years A Slave” definitely deserves to be considered for Best Picture of 2013. It is one of the most realistic looks at slavery that has ever been put to film and I imagine it will be represented on Oscar night with a couple of surprise statuettes…

Overall Rating: A

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