12 Years A Slave: A Review

I watched this movie months ago, but now that award season is over and the movie will naturally return to the screen in many theaters, I feel a greater need now more than ever, to talk about a movie that moved me so profoundly. I wanted to write about it back in October, but did not feel I could breathe yet. I find the cliche of describing a movie as “breathtaking” to be largely phony; however 12 Years A Slave would not allow me to take a breath. My breath was not lost, but rather not an option.

I enjoy movies, and there are few that I will walk away from saying, “I would prefer not to see that again.” One could say I am easily entertained, but not so easily moved. Many will contradict, professing how often they have seen me uncontrollably sob during a movie, but chances are we aren’t watching trashy films. I also love to feel emotion, and I am masochistic in that I will purposefully watch movies I know will bring me to tears, because I hate nothing more than spending time and money with a movie that lacks depth. At least, I would not dignify that movie with the title of movie; I would call it entertainment and move on. Now, when I say 12 Years A Slave is one of the best movies I have seen in years, if ever, I do not make this claim without having spent months mulling over the content and strength of this movie.

I knew I would have to see this movie alone, to be able to really watch this movie without the emotional influence of whomever came with me. About ten minutes into the film, I stopped breathing. To take a breath would be take a reprieve from the emotional weight on screen, and I couldn’t bear it. Eventually, I realized that I could move my diaphragm if I forced it, and between the extended periods of being unable to take breath, I sobbed some of the uglier sobs of my life. The story of Solomon Northup and those he met during his 12 years as a slave was a story that needed to be told, and the creators of this film accomplished what they set out to do, if they intended to shackle me and my heart to that theater seat, to that film, to his story. Months later, I am still slapped with the force of the film.

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Not once did I fall out of the movie, through plot, or music, or set, or costume. Steve McQueen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, and so many more captivated me with their talent and their ability to create this film. I believed so profoundly in what I was seeing, and I do not doubt the honesty of the film for one moment. The movie, as is with the nature of Solomon Northup’s story, provides the lens of a freeman entering into the live of a slave for 12 years. Now, what is so profound about this lens is that all those who enter slavery should be considered free human beings. Whether a person was born into that life, or shackled as an adult, there is no justification for the enslavement of a person, as we should all be free. The audience can see this life in enslavement with their own eyes, as people who are more or less free, and then the image of Solomon being kidnapped and sold into this life is all the more horrifyingly real.

I am not sure I could shake this movie, even if I tried, and I am positive that I don’t want to. I recommend that everyone see this movie with every fiber of my being, because it is a movie in its truest form. A movie fulfilling its purpose of being emotionally capturing and profound in its task of shattering the seer with every single frame. Solomon Northup’s story needed to be told, and you should listen.

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