12 Years a Slave deserves the Oscar hype that surrounds this film. A beautiful and breakout performance from Chiwetel Ejiofor, he is a near shoe in for the best actor award.
Based on a true story, 12 Years a Slave brings us back to 1841 New York. Solomon Northup (Ejiofor) is a free man living in Saratoga with his wife and two kids. One morning when he was out for a walk he was introduced to two men that were in show business. Having heard of his skill with a violin, they asked him to join their act in Washington D.C. while his wife was away. It paid well and so his journey began. After a night of drinking Solomon finds himself in a D.C. basement chained to the floor. Following a brutal lashing, he has the fear of death put into him and remains quiet on their journey south to be sold at an auction.
Hardship and heartbreak ensue for him. The first family he serves are led by Master Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his life is fairly simple and easy, though still the life of a slave. Problems with Tibeats (Paul Dano) a unstable, racist grows into violence due to jealousy at his good treatment. Things don’t go his way, but Solmon’s life always takes a turn for the worse as he is sold for striking a white man to a plantation owner that isn’t as genial as Ford and a nasty bigot to boot.
Michael Fassbender turns in a wonderful performance as plantation owner Edwin Epps. Racist, drunk, religious, unfaithful and morally corrupt violent man. He torments his slave with brutality and by waking them in the in the middle of the night after working hard all day to dance for him and his wife’s amusement.
The years pass and Solomon does his best to survive and search for a way back home. He misplaces his trust once, but the unknown fact that he is intelligent as he is forced to play dumb and ignorant helps him with some quick thinking to avoid his master’s wrath. All looks lost until an abolitionist (Brad Pitt) is hired to help build on the farm. Taking a chance on both parties, a letter is sent and his journey home begins.
We here at MJR don’t want to give too much more away as we believe 12 Years a Slave is definitely worth viewing. A beautiful, heartbreaking tale with several standout performances help make this one of the years best films.
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