Movie Review: ‘12 Years a Slave’ brutal but excellent

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By Owen Bradbury Aranda

In recent years, it seems that many films regarding the subject of slavery. Yet, until now there arguably has not been a film that truly captures the cruelly atrocious nature of the “peculiar institution.”
“12 Years a Slave” tells the incredible true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a distinguished free black man living in the North who was kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery.
One of the most shocking aspects of the film is the contrast between Northup’s life as a free man and as a slave in the South.
Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti and Brad Pitt, the film boasts a famous cast to say the least.
Steve McQueen, the acclaimed director of both “Shame” and “12 Years a Slave,” captures the raw nature of the subject at hand. The film illustrates the gruesome brutality of slavery and explores the horrors of one of the darkest times in our nation’s history.
The movie has no shame in explicitly showing the torture and wicked punishment inflicted on slaves during the pre-Civil War time period. On the whole, the film is visually disturbing, but also captivating in its authenticity.
The pervasiveness of the violence and brutality in a sense desensitizes the viewer: as the story progresses, the spectator is in essence forced to become accustomed to the horrors of slavery.
The subject of slavery involves sensitive material, so the film is not suited for all viewers — particularly those disturbed by violence, nudity, or coarse language.
Although the film is lengthy, and some of the scenes seem exceedingly drawn out, the overtly long duration helps convey the traumatic experience of becoming a slave for 12 years after a lifetime of freedom.
In many ways the movie shows the audience the true value of freedom and how Americans today often take their rights for granted.
The film’s three Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay are incredibly well deserved.
Many of the nominations for these categories at the Oscars were close races, but Kenyan-Mexican actress Lupita Nyong’o blew away the competition for Best Supporting Actress with her startlingly captivating performance. She demonstrates a maturity far beyond her years in her role as Patsey, the slave mistress of Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), a wealthy and abusive plantation owner.
Nyong’o brings the character to life in a hauntingly authentic performance, which forces viewers to remind themselves that in reality her tortured state is only the result of her skill as an actress. “12 Years a Slave” is by no means revolutionary; nevertheless, the film is excellent, incredibly impacting, a definite must-see and deserves every bit of recognition and praise it has earned so far.