12 YEARS A SLAVE

Just how awful can people be to each other.  Pretty damn awful. Slavery may be the best and worst example of human behavior. And no movie or TV show has ever captured the sheer brutality and hopelessness like 12 YEARS A SLAVE. Steve McQueen’s epic adaptation of Solomon Northup’s story is raw and filled with emotion. None of that emotion comes anywhere close to joy or even happiness. It is a tale filled with sorrow and disappointment and brutality. McQueen is unsparing in his depiction of the heartless Masters and Mistresses and their plantation bosses. He also strips raw the notion that any slave enjoyed their existence. Even those who were favored with somewhat humane Masters lived in fear of the whip. And the whip comes out frequently in this movie. Chiwetel Ojiofor is Northup, a free black man who is duped and drugged, then sold into slavery. He must hide his education and his intelligence because those would be threats to his masters. He cannot reveal his true identity for the same reasons. Northup is both victim and witness to the brutality of plantation owner Edwin Epps, marvelously played by Michael Fassbender. On the Epps plantation he encounters Patsey, Epps favored female slave who at one point in a heartbreaking scene begs Northup to kill her. Lupita Nyong’o deserves every award she has won and will win for her raw portrayal of Patsey. This is not an easy movie to watch. Your stomach and heart will turn in almost every scene. But it is an important film and one that everyone should see. Is it the best film of 2013? It might be. Does it deserve to win Best Picture? It’s not my favorite film of 2013, but it is a very close number 2. — Alan Yudman

This is a disturbing movie that shows viewers the horrors of slavery. That being said, I don’t think it was a great film. It is one of those “important movies” that tells us one man’s story…but I feel like that story could have been told much better. For the most part we don’t know a lot about the main character before these awful things happen to him and when they do,  we are sympathetic but never drawn into his feelings. I’m sorry but long scenes of staring off into space are not emoting. It’s also no secret that Brad Pitt produced this and when he shows up in screen it completely takes you out. One because it’s Brad Pitt. And two, he cast himself as the ultimate hero and it smacks of ego. Other than he and Chiwetel Ejifor, the rest of the cast is fantastic. Unfortunately it fails to connect in a way that other movies have that deal with the grim subject matter. It will also probably win Best Picture. — Stormy Curry


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