‘Twelve years a slave’ is a hard-hitting, heart-wrenching and brutally original film that hardly leaves you with a dry eye. Based on the book of the same title and true events, it tells the story of Solomon Northup, a free colored man who lives the honorable and respected life of a violinist. He is hardly aware of the slave economy system in the 1840s, but one day gets abducted, shipped and sold into slavery. The film then authentically shows the transition of Solomon Northup’s freedom to a life of slavery. His struggles, tears, vulnerability, fears and the injustices he is faced with are all finely presented in this movie that can be considered a microscopic view at a man’s struggle with an unfair life forced upon him and his temporary powerlessness to escape this situation.
The film deservedly won 3 Oscars for the best motion picture, best actress in supporting role by Lupita Nyong’o and best adapted screenplay by John Ridley.
Slavery as a subject has been covered before in movies such as ‘Gone with the wind’, where the topic is ingenuously romanticized, while in movies such as ‘Django Unchained’, they added humor to a subject as serious as slavery. In contrast, ‘12 years a slave’ draws a non-extenuated picture of the raw and brutal reality of slavery.
The film is directed by Steve McQueen who has previously explored human depths with movies like ‘Shame’ and ‘Hunger’. His fearless approach to capture the brutality and despair in humans, especially demonstrated by the figure of the protagonist Solomon, also traces back to the convincing direction. The story telling in some scenes is done impeccably through a wide shot without using any dialogue and reflecting the ugliness of the society. The screenplay written by John Ridley further complements the story telling. The script is intelligent, original, poignant and extremely captivating.
Essential to all these details is the performance of Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon who certainly made his mark with his outstanding performance and therefore received justifiable international recognition. His acting, dialogues, facial expressions and even the movement of his eyebrows are remarkably fine and original. Alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor, the acting of all other actors involved in the film is brilliant, especially the performance of Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o who deserves all the appreciation she has been credited to.
This film is so strong and authentic in nature that it can capture you from the very first scene although it takes you to a very uncomfortable journey. Still, you will and maybe should not regret taking this journey, which sets another convincing cornerstone in remembering our past of the inhuman practice of slavery.