’12 Years a Slave’ Review by Shirley Hawkins

     ’12 Years a Slave’ is Riveting and Unforgettable

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’12 Years a Slave’ is perhaps the most gripping movie I have seen this year and one that I will not easily forget.

 

It centers on the story of Solomon Northup, a free Black man from Saratoga, New York who was drugged, kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana.

 

A literate man who was a professional carpenter and violinist, the savage brutality Northup endured during his years of enslavement is gut-wrenching to watch.

 

Northup, whose name was forcefully changed to ‘Platt Hamilton’, discovers that he must hide his former identity in order to survive the brutal world of enslavement.

 

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Not only does one get a glimpse into the unrelenting horror of slavery, but one becomes privy to the moral and psychological toll that ‘owning’ human beings eventually took on the slave owners.

 

When Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) meets sympathetic carpenter Bass (Brad Pitt), he reveals his secret that he was born a free man. Horrified, Bass agrees to write a letter to Northup’s friends and family notifying them of his whereabouts.

 

After he is finally returned home, Northup wrote a book about his horrible experience named “12 Years a Slave” in 1853. He became a tireless abolitionist and was also instrumental in helping slaves escape their captivity as a participant in the Underground Railroad.

 

The performances in ’12 Years a Slave’ are remarkable across the board, notably Michael Fassbender as vicious slave owner Edwin Epps and Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey, a tormented slave woman.

 

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Ejiofor (a Brit)! is stunning in the title role. It’s almost a certainty that Ejiofor will receive a ‘Best Actor’ nomination when Oscar season rolls around.

 

This is one of those remarkable, gut wrenching films that will linger in the memory long after the credits have rolled. ’12 Years a Slave’ will spark discussion for months, and even years, to come.

 

Directed by Steve McQueen and produced by Brad Pitt, this movie is not for the fainthearted.  This is a tough film to watch so brace yourself –and be sure to bring plenty of Kleenex.

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