12 Years A Slave – Review

February 10, 2014 12:03 pm

Based on the true story and book of the same name, 12 Years a Slave follows Solomon Northup, a free man from New York who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. What follows is twelve hellish years where Solomon experiences violence on an unthinkable scale, when all he wants is to prove his freedom and return to his wife and two children. The film has already received the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture (Drama) as well as nine Academy Award nominations – and all for good reason.


12 Years a Slave is easily the most absorbing, shocking and unsettling film that I have ever seen. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance as Solomon Northup is excellent from start to finish, never wavering in his emotion. The steadfast nature of Solomon’s character, and the other supporting actors such as Michael Fassbender, cotton plantation owner Edwin Epps, were equally as captivating to watch. Solomon’s assertion that ‘I don’t want to survive; I want to live’ is spine-tingling, and we see this resolve throughout the whole film, when he is faced with things that take him to the edge.

If I had my ultra-critical hat on, however, the additions of both Benedict Cumberbatch, Solomon’s first owner Ford, and Brad Pitt, who played pivotal character Bass, needed more expansion. Cumberbatch’s character in particular didn’t feel that clearly defined, which is a shame considering the quality of the actor, and though Pitt facilitates a vital plot twist, he is very limited in the face of the concentration on Solomon.

Occasionally, 12 Years a Slave also had too many extended face shots of Ejiofor. Although the long scene when Solomon is experiencing a particular brutal moment contrasted the other slaves going about their normal work emphasises the isolation of black slaves in the nineteenth century, towards the end a face shot that must have lasted at least a couple of minutes showed us very little. PH8sGn6ux7m9b8_1_m (1)There is no denying Ejiofor’s talent as an actor, but there is a limit to how much he convey via his facial expressions without any dialogue to stimulate his audience.

This is not, however, to detract anything from the quality of the film. Although classified as a 15 certificate, the stark depictions of brutality are enough to make anyone feel uncomfortable. 12 Years a Slave is not for the faint-hearted, but if you are prepared to be shown highly realistic scenes of violence and racial aggression then you will not be disappointed by the power and emotion that fills this film. 12 Years a Slave certainly brought a few tears to my eyes, the first film I have ever seen to do so. I’m sure it will go down on the list of films that everyone must see before they die.

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