MOVIE REVIEW: 12 Years a Slave – Learning to Survive in Hopes to Live Again


Written By: Justin Morales

Director: Steve McQueen
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael K. Williams, Michael Fassbender

The year is 1841 and Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofo) is a free slave making a good living being a musician in Saratoga, N.Y. His Wife Anne (Kelsey Scott) and two children are to go on a trip and won’t return for two weeks and during that same time Solomon is approached by two white gentleman with a business offer. They are searching for a violinist to perform in Washington D.C. with them for the next two weeks and promises to pay well. Solomon accepts the offer and heads with them towards Washington D.C. Solomon, being a free slave, is allowed to freely wine and dine with the two gentlemen and rightfully does so but is awaken the next day in chains, captured by slave traders.

Once in the South, Solomon is given the name Platt and auctioned off to Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch). Solomon’s stay at Ford’s plantation didn’t last long as problems stir up with one of the overseer, Tibeats (Paul Dano). Solomon is then sold to Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) due to Ford worried for Solomon’s life. Solomon learns to survive and hopes he can get some sort of message back up North but as each day passes Solomon’s identity and humanity is stripped away.

Steve McQueen takes you on marvelous journey throughout 12 Years a Slave. McQueen does not at all hide the rough realities of slavery and doing so helps the viewer confront it. This is McQueen putting on the director’s hat and I must say he is 3 for 3, with McQueen’s other films being 2008’s Hunger and 2011’s Shame. With the help of screenplay writer John Ridley, they were able to create scenes of terror all while still capturing Solomon’s sorrowful acceptance of what might be his future. The overall acting in 12 Years a Slave is simply superb as Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano and Sarah Paulson played amazing antagonists while Brad Pitt and Benedict Cumberbatch gave us a shimmer of hope.

Earlier this year David Lee’s The Butler came out in theaters and brought to light the fight that African Americans had when it came to attaining freedom. 12 Years a Slave shouts in the face of its viewers the fight that African Americans had when it came to slavery. As Solomon hangs from a tree with his feet barely touching the sinking Earth below him and no one helps him for hours, no whites or blacks, the pain and hatred for slavery only grows and shocks you of this sick reality.

I highly recommend going to see 12 Years a Slave as it easily will be nominated for Best Film this year. This is not a film you want to miss out on as the buzz will surely grow with this film.

What The Delio?: 9.5/10

12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup