Indelible Pieces

Ramblings about entertainment, lifestyle and travel

12 Years a Slave (2013) Review


Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave follows the story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his plight of being kidnapped and sold into slavery. If last night’s BAFTA success is anything to go by, 12 Years a Slave and its cast will do well at this year’s Oscars. With 9 nominations in total, including Best Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Best Director (Steve McQueen) and Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong’o), it’s not a movie to be sniffed at by any means.

Yet, it’s not a ‘feel good’ movie and if that’s what you’re after, then you should give this one a miss. 12 Years a Slave is an intense film that tells the story of a time where slavery was . Solomon Northup is a free man from upstate New York. He’s a skilled violinist, can read and write, owns his own home and has a family he cares for – a wife, a son and a daughter. He’s successful and well liked and all in all he has a good life.

Set in the 1800s in pre-Civil War America, he lives in a period of time where very few black people are considered ‘free’, which is increasingly rare the further south you get. With a happy and good life in New York, his abduction is all the more chilling. From the beginning he’s got no rights and any attempt to prove that he’s a free man is met with violence and humiliation. Abducted, and on his journey to the plantations in Louisiana he comes across other ‘free’ but kidnapped individuals, but Steve McQueen doesn’t sugar coat any parts – within the first few minutes of the film the viewer sees children being ripped from their mothers, others killed and beaten.


Solomon , renamed ‘Platt’, quickly learns that he has to follow the rules to survive, but finds himself struggling to retain his dignity. Although he crosses paths with a fairly lenient slave owner (Benedict Cumberbatch) if you can call it that, he soon finds himself ‘owned’ by a malevolent slave owner (Michael Fassbender) who not only subjects his slaves to constant terror and fear, but also to the humiliation of having to do as he says, even if this means dancing in acting ‘happy’ in the middle of the night. His chilling story continues for 12 long years and although he tries to contact his family a couple of times he fails miserably and his situation seems to only gets worse. When he finally meets a Canadian carpenter (Brad Pitt) he seems to have lost all hope and trust, but gives it one last shot.

Without giving too much away, it is an incredibly intense but unbelievable gripping movie that holds the attention of its audience throughout. The performances are exceptional, which bring this true story to life, but also why 12 Years a Slave is so hard-hitting. It’s an unbelievably sad film and it’s nearly impossible to imagine this was a reality just over 100 years ago. As I said early on, this is not a movie for everyone. It is cruel. It is real. It is graphic. Yet, I couldn’t recommend this movie enough – if you haven’t seen it, then do, as this is the kind of film that will be talked about for a long time to come.


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This entry was posted on February 17, 2014 by in Film & TV and tagged , , , .
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