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12 Years a Slave (2013) Reviewed By Jay

United States, 21 August 2013


  • Genre: Movies
  • Runtime: 130 mins

Jay´s Review

Let's get this out of the way first: Chiwetel Ejiofor is pronounced "Chew-eh-tell Edge-ee-oh-for." You will hear it many times during the awards season.

Based on his book written in 1854, this best seller told how Solomon Northup, born a free (educated) black man in New York, was abducted in Washington DC, sold into slavery and his travails that followed. For one thing, he had to conceal his literacy or be killed. The screenplay is by John Ridley ("Red Tails"), with the much-acclaimed Steve McQueen ("Shame") as director.

We have always heard that power corrupts. I would argue that it's the ABUSE of power that is so compelling, not the power itself. In my opinion, that is what is illustrated here.

Look at the cast:

  • * Chiwetel Ejiofor ("Salt") is brilliant as Solomon Northup, the fellow whose misfortunes we must watch. This actor, born in England to Nigerian parents, is a terrific chameleon, a master of dialects, and a clever fellow who sang "These Boots are Made for Walkin' " as a fetching drag queen in "Kinky Boots." I'm a big fan.
  • * Lupita Nyong'o (some TV) is Patsey, a fellow slave, subjected to every demeaning scheme her cruel owners can devise.
  • * Quvenzhané Wallis ("Beasts of the Southern Wild") is his daughter Margaret. Her name is pronounced "Qua-ven-zhah-nay."
  • * Michael Fassbender ("Prometheus") is excellent as Edwin Epps, a slave owner. He illustrates the dehumanizing effects that slavery has on both slaves and their owners. This German-born actor has worked non stop in America in both movies and television since 2001.
  • * Sarah Paulson (Lots of TV) is his wife, who is every bit as cruel in her own sweet genteel way as her loathsome husband.

This has a huge cast, and we see an interesting series of cameos which feature Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard, and Paul Dano, to name a few.

This is 134 loooong R-rated minutes, with only two teeny scraps of humor, some nudity and far too many bloody whippings. I reached horror overload about halfway in: I saw enough lashings, beatings, hangings, rapes and humiliations to last me a lifetime. This movie is very capably done, both Fassbender and Ejiofor should be short-listed for Academy nominations, but the script itself was a bit of overkill. Sometimes too much brutality is just too much, the audience gets numb. Be warned....

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