12 Years a Slave

First Hit:  A very powerful film about a man’s abduction into slavery.

Despite serving active time in a war, it is hard for me to believe man’s inhumanity to man, as expressed in this film.

In this film, we are witness to a true story of how Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a “free black man”, was abducted in Washington DC, shipped to Louisiana and sold to a southern slave owner. Northup is intelligent, talented and strong in spirit, and to stifle himself while submitting to slavery so that he doesn’t get beat to death is difficult. The story follows Northrup as he is transferred from owner to owner while being beat, ostracized by fellow slaves and then admired by his fellow slaves because of his ingenuity. All the while he keeps wondering how he can escape and get back to his family in upstate New York.

The acting of slave owner Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) and his wife (Sarah Paulson) is outstanding. Tibeats (Paul Dano) and Freeman (Paul Giamatti) are also impactful in their roles as managers and traders of slaves.  Then there is transcendent acting in the roles of Patsy (Lupita Nyong’o) and Ejiofor. That is not to say anything less of the acting by the rest of the crew – it was brilliant.

Letting the story settle within me over the last 18 hours, I realize how profound the story reflects how far we’ve come as a country and how much farther we must go.

The taglines of the film stating that the people who abducted and held him illegally escaped punishment were profoundly disappointing.

Ejiofor embodied the character so fully and completely that when he finally comes home his tears were his and all of ours for the injustice we do to each other. Fassbender, in an unenviable role, was amazing at being the selfish, arrogant, and self-centered slave owner. Paulson as Fassbender’s wife carried her frustration and meanness towards her husband’s fondness to Patsy perfectly. Dano in a brief but important role was perfect. Giamatti was amazingly cruel as the seller of slaves. Nyong’o was sublime as Epps’ slave love interest. All the acting in this film was amazing. John Ridley wrote a profoundly detailed script from the real Solomon Northup’s book. Steve McQueen expertly directed this film. My only criticism of the film was its length but I couldn’t name a scene that I’d remove.

Overall:  This is an Oscar caliber film and it will be honored so at the Academy Awards.