Reel Freak

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Reel Review – 12 Years A Slave (2013)


I went to go see 12 Years a Slave today, and it is a complete modern masterpiece.  Being in theaters for a couple of months now, I had kept putting it off due to other releases, but finally decided to catch a showing this afternoon.  I can easily support all of the high acclaim and award nominations it has received so far.

12 Years a Slave, directed by Steve McQueen, is based on the true story of Solomon Northup (portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York.  In 1841, Northup is kidnapped and sold into slavery against his will.  He is sent to work for slave owner Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), who is generally kind to him given the circumstances.  After a skirmish between Northup and one of Ford’s workers, he feels it is best that Northup be sold to another plantation, run by ruthless slaver Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender).  There, he works for a number of years, facing countless acts of cruelty from Epps.  During the twelfth year of his slavery, Northup has a chance encounter with Canadian abolitionist Bass (Brad Pitt), who agrees to help him prove his identity in order to regain his freedom.

First off, I have to say that Ejiofor owns the Best Actor category for me as of now.  I said the same last week with DiCaprio and his performance in The Wolf of Wall Street, but while both were unforgettably terrific, I feel there is a definite edge on Ejiofor’s side.


He is backed by a supporting cast that serves the film unbelievable justice.  Fassbender, Cumberbatch & Pitt are all terrific in their roles, and I think Fassbender should be atop the list of nominees and win Best Supporting Actor for his aggressive performance.  

Also, a bonus to the film for me was the original score by Hans Zimmer; one of my favorite film composers.

Steve McQueen does an incredible job with telling Northup’s legacy.  His film is absolutely gripping, heartfelt and will leave you speechless.  I would not be surprised if McQueen ends up with a win for Best Director, as well as Best Picture, with an edge over Martin Scorsese and The Wolf of Wall Street.

A thought that crossed my mind is that there has been a noticeable amount of movies over the past few years that have dealt with either slavery or pre-civil rights eras (42, Django Unchained, Lincoln).  In fact, almost enough to make you wonder why the sudden resurgence of the historical topic.  But with a movie as dark, realistic and touching as this, it makes you appreciate how well these stories are told, despite the unfortunate nature of such events.

Go out and see 12 Years a Slave if you have not already.  One of the most critically acclaimed movies of the year, with an IMDB rating of 8.7/10 and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 96%, it’s hard to pass up seeing this remarkable picture.

My Reel Rating: 9.0/10

Written by Josh Sazin on December 30th, 2013.


4 comments on “Reel Review – 12 Years A Slave (2013)

  1. flashbackbackslide
    December 31, 2013

    I completely agree that the acting overall was terrific here and that this is one of the best movies this year. For me, the movie didn’t allow for Ejiofor to show enough development of Solomon. He was obviously hit with a horrible tragedy but it didn’t seem like he changed as much as I would expect (obviously he must have changed significantly but the movie didn’t necessarily give a lot of insight here). Ejiofor was great but I think the focus of the movie wasn’t so much on this transition. Maybe I am arguing for more focus on Solomon, I’m not sure. Either way, I think this is one of the better recent movies dealing with slavery or civil rights. Probably because it deals with the heaviest topics but also because of how well done it is overall.

    • jsazin
      December 31, 2013

      Thanks for the comment! Now that you mention it, I agree with what you said about the evolution of Solomon wasn’t necessarily focused on. Maybe the runtime could have been 2 hr 30 min in order to give more of that an explanation, but at the same time I feel like there’s only so much they could’ve shown while Solomon was working for Epps. But I do agree. The period between him working for Epps and meeting Brad Pitt’s character seemed to just be a time-leap

      • flashbackbackslide
        December 31, 2013

        Yeah and even if they didn’t go into the transition he went through in extreme depth, they were able to show more characters because of it, especially Patsey.

      • jsazin
        December 31, 2013

        Definitely, the acting on her end was just as great, especially when she starts yelling at Epps.

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