Went to go see 12 years a slave tonight at the great Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. Always enjoy going there to watch anything, but then again this is a review about a movie, not the place I went to see it in. On to the review! POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD SO READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!!
12 Years a Slave is a movie by directed by Steve McQueen (not that one), written by John Ridley as an adaptation of the autobiography of Solomon Northup, a born free negro, sold into slavery in 1841 and his time associated as a slave. Solomon is played by Chiwetel Ejiofo (American Gangster, Talk to Me, Othello, Love Actually) and also stars Brad Pitt, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Alfre Woodard.
I have mixed feelings about this movie, as I do with most, because I never want to go in with emotions on my shoulder, or negativity about anything on my shoulder to keep it honest. This film was very good at getting the feeling (as best as anyone could these days) of what the feeling of being property was. I say property, because that is how Slaves were treated back in those days. It had the feeling of almost a prison movie in that you feel Solomon break down, feel helpless, and just do what he can, day in and day out to survive the situation he is in. He came into this horrible situation a successful carpenter and fiddle player that is well educated, that now has to pretend that he cannot read, or write for fear of punishment, and or death. There is no way to get a hold of his family that basically has no idea where he is because he was abducted, and cannot trust anyone because they all might turn him in. It really is good at drawing out emotions on this, as well as developing the characters of the various slave owners he has to face throughout his struggle. Some owners aren’t complete pieces of garbage, some are, but they all basically treat their slaves as nothing more than animals and property that are as smart as the other animals they own. Women are torn from their children, husbands from wives, because it makes control easier, and profitable.
The movie does feel the entire 134 minutes at times, and there were moments where I was wondering if it would ever get better for Solomon, or how it would happen. That brings up another point. It does tend to drag a bit because of this, and it feels like the ending almost comes together out of nowhere. That brings it down a bit for me because it felt rushed. Having said all this it was a really good movie, and I would suggest it to anyone out there who likes historical films such as this. I am an avid History buff, love the stuff about and surrounding the Civil War, so this fit well for me as something to get another aspect on. Not a movie to take the kids to for sure, and I know I’m used to a lot of horrible images in this time on earth, so some of the imagery wasn’t bad for me, but I know might be much for others.
I’m not sure if this will get nominated for any Academy Awards, but it should, the cinemetography was great, sound, design and editing were good as well. Only thing once again was just the fact that it dragged along at times and the end seemed thrown in quickly. Go see this, you won’t be sorry for it.