Reviews of Movies, TV shows & metro Detroit Restaurants

Short movie & TV show reviews and metro Detroit restaurant reviews

Friday, March 7, 2014

Movie Review: "12 Years a Slave" (2013)

The day before the 2014 Oscars, I went to see 12 Years a Slave (directed by Steve McQueen and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor & Lupita Nyong'o) as I knew I needed to see this movie before the awards show as I expected it to garner some awards. I am glad that I was able to see it before it nabbed Best Picture, an award that it most definitely deserved (prior to seeing it, I thought Gravity deserved Best Pic). To say the least, this movie is powerful. I read a review of this movie in Entertainment Weekly and the review states "12 Years a Slave is an agonizingly magnificent movie"..."agonizingly magnificent" is a perfect summary of this movie if one is only given two words to describe it.

Solomon Northup (played by Ejiofor) was born a free man (his father was a former slave who was freed by his master upon his master's death) and worked as a carpenter & fiddle player. In 1842, he is asked by two white men to work for them as a musician in Washington, D.C. for a short period of time. He accepts their offer, but it's a trick and the two men arrange for him to be sold into slavery (a common practice at this time, especially in Washington as slavery was still legal there at this time). He is indeed sold, forced to change his name to Platt, and winds up on a Louisiana plantation owned by William Ford (played by Benedict Cumberbatch). Relatively speaking, Ford treats his slaves very well and Solomon is no exception. In fact, Solomon helps Ford streamline the way logs are transported downstream and Ford rewards him with a violin. However, John Tibeats (played by Paul Dano) who works for Ford resents Solomon and this resentment escalates to the point that Ford must sell Solomon. He sells him to Edwin Epps (played by Michael Fassbender), who is an evil & diabolical cotton plantation owner that frequently beats & abuse his slave as he believes it his biblical right to do so. It is here that Solomon meets Patsey (played by Nyong'o), a young slave who picks the most cotton (twice as much) as anyone else on the plantation. Epps is obsessed with Patsey and frequently rapes her thus resulting in further abuse fueled be resentment from Epps' wife Mary (played by Sarah Paulson). Fortunately for Solomon, there are some good people in the South and he is eventually freed from his bondage.

As I stated already, this movie is powerful to say the least. It was difficult & uncomfortable to watch due to the violence it portrays so realistically, but it SHOULD be difficult & uncomfortable to watch. This movie challenges the senses like no other has (for me) in recent history. The movie theater I was in was packed with people and yet you could hear a pin drop throughout the entire movie due to its subject matter & how vividly it portrayed the true brutality of slavery in the United States. I believe every American needs to watch this movie to get some understanding of this dark time in our country's history.

The power of this movie stems from the direction of McQueen and the performances of the actors, most notably Ejiofor & Nyong'o. Even Fassbender & Paulson play their roles perfectly even though they play hateful, awful people. I think being able to bring yourself to be able to play such roles says a lot about your acting talent and they both do an amazing job of it. Ejiofor shows Solomon's pain & suffering (not just physically, but emotionally as well...probably more so emotionally) perfectly and you can almost feel his performance, not just see it. Nyong'o portrays the pain & terror that Patsey feels in brilliant fashion and she deserved the Best Supporting Actor Oscar that she was awarded. McQueen's direction is also brilliant as he portrays slavery like no other movie or TV show ever has, especially in the final scenes on the plantation. Not even Roots portrayed the brutality of slavery in such a way. John Ridley was also awarded an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for his truly wonderful script. His adaptation of Solomon's story was truly fantastic.

12 Years a Slave truly deserved to be awarded the 
Oscar for Best Picture of 2013...9.0/10 stars

No comments: