Oscar nominee review: 12 Years a Slave

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Katie Mons

By: Meredith Cullen and Katie Mons

Based on a true story, the film 12 Years a Slave depicts the life of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who originally was a free man from New York during the 1800s. However, one day he was kidnapped in Washington D.C.and sold into slavery. The movie follows Solomon’s life and portrays his horrific experiences. We see him beaten and traded from master to master, and watch every hardship he encounters. We see Solomon fight for his right to be free again and his efforts to be reunited with his family.

The film is insanely difficult to watch. Many scenes include violent beatings of the slaves and the torture they had to endure.  The fact that it is an adaptation 1853 memoir Twelve Years a Slave by Northup makes the movie even more heart-wrenching to view. The acting is phenomenal which helps the movie feel more realistic. The actors embrace their roles beautifully, which makes the movie excellent but also hard to view at the same time.

12 Years a Slave made a worldwide gross of $127,965,000, and it’s obvious why. The film is captivating and draws the viewer in. While most people know about slavery in the South, witnessing it takes the understanding to a whole new level. Though conditions in the South were most definitely worse that what was shown in the movie, if the film had been any more violent, it would not have gotten the success that it received. The film however, is able to keep relative historical accurateness by not being over dramatized.

While the film spotlights some new acting faces such as Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o (Patsey), and also includes big names such as Benedict Cumberbatch and Brad Pitt. Pitt’s character is essential to the story, but Pitt as an actor is not. He makes the film seem less of a historical story and more of a drama. The film would have been better if it had continued to introduce the spotlight to less-known actors like it had for Ejiofor and Nyong’o.

Scenes throughout the entire film are emotional and moving. However, there are too many scenes that are prolonged on a character’s face or a particular setting with nothing happening in that scene. The film would be better if those parts were edited down so audiences don’t have to guess the point of those scenes.

Overall, 12 Years a Slave uses a truly captivating story to teach audiences about the horrors of America’s past. It is a stunning film with breathtaking moments and amazing performances. It has already won the Golden Globe for “Best Motion Picture – Drama” and is nominated for nine Academy Awards. The film certainly deserves an Oscar for the best drama film of 2013.