Saturday Selections: 12 Years a Slave

In this second installment of Saturday Selections (notice the new name for the feature) I’m going to make what may be a bit of an overstatement:

Even if you think you’re not going to like 12 Years a Slave, you’re going to like 12 Years a Slave.

12 Years a Slave (2013) Poster

12 Years a Slave – Watch this movie! Image taken from IMDB.com

Now, before I start, a little background – on me, not the movie.

I’m not that interested in the slavery issue. Okay, okay, don’t stop reading in a huff. Let me explain.

Yes, slavery is horrible and very bad things happened to slaves, but my disinterest isn’t in the plight of the people who endured slavery, it’s just a general disinterest in U.S. history. World history, especially European history, fascinates me, but no matter how much I try, I just can’t drum up an interest in the American side of things.

So, when 12 Years a Slave came out, I didn’t have much interest in seeing it. I gained a little more interest when it started receiving all kinds of kudos from the critics, but for the most part, I find movies that critics think fabulous tend to be a bit dull and over-hyped.

Still, my interest in seeing the film grew so I put it on hold at the library. I’m always willing to give things a chance – especially for free.

The movie arrived and when I saw how long it was (130+ minutes), I figured I’d watch half one night and the other half the next.

I never stopped the movie.

Seriously, I didn’t even check the time until I was an hour and a half into the show. The thing is damn compelling and not your typical slave movie of a group of Africans being captured, tossed about in the cargo hold of a ship, put on a wooden platform, and sold to the highest bidder.

Not in the least.

Imagine taking a business trip from New York to D.C., finding yourself in chains with no one to vouch for who you are, and then being put to hard labor for 12 years. Your family doesn’t know where you went, you live in fear of people finding out you’re the devil (meaning you can read and write), and being completely unable to find a sympathetic ear.

That’s 12 Years a Slave.

A Brief Overview

The movie begins with Solomon Northrup (portrayed spectacularly by Chiwetal Ejiofor), an educated free man who lives in New York in 1841 with his family. One day a friend introduces him to two white men who have a gig for him in D.C (Solomon plays the fiddle). At this point, like seeing some teenage girl head into the woods alone in a horror movie, you’re yelling at Solomon not to go.

But he does. A few too many drinks and Solomon wakes up in an underground cell in chains being told his name is now Platt. Then he gets it beaten into him to agree that he is an escaped slave.

Over the course of his 12 years he meets good guys (Brad Pitt), bad guys (Michael Fassbender), and in between guys (Benedict Cumberbatch). He tries to keep his head low, but with a strong education and the knowledge of who he truly is, sometimes his mouth and frustration get the better of him. More than once Solomon finds himself on the brink of death, battling morality, and placing his trust in the wrong people. And never once is the movie not riveting.

I won’t give away the ending, but let me just say that you will be thinking about the film long after the credits have rolled.

Have you seen 12 Years a Slave? If so, what did you think? (No spoilers, please)

 

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