The movie 12 Years a Slave started creating quite the buzz and hoopla almost immediately after it was released a couple of months ago. Given the fact that it was based on a true story of Solomon Northup in the 1840s and given that it dealt with the theme of slavery from the perspective of an insider, a slave, it was a no-brainer that this movie would go on to be talked about quite a bit for more than quite a while. Power packed performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor (as Solomon Northup, Platt), Lupita Nyong’o (as Patsy) and Michael Fassbender (as Edwin Epps) also meant that this movie went on to garner more than its fair share of nominations in the acting awards during the awards season of the year. In fact, the movie itself is one of the nominees for Best Picture in the Academy Awards this year.
While the title is self explanatory and deals with the travails of the main protagonist’s struggles and story as a slave for 12 years, the fact that the director Steve McQueen chose to deal with the subject matter so subtly, so elegantly without resorting to unnecessary sensationalism or jingoism with it is what made the movie so good for me personally. The director could easily have gone overboard with the plot, especially the scenes around the violence meted out to the slaves by their masters, but the fact that he chose not to overdo these scenes but chose to focus more on the main protagonist and his plight as a slave makes this a well balanced movie.
In fact Chiwetel Ejiofor, the lead actor quoted “I love the film. I think it’s a really strong piece of work. But I also want people to come to it without all the buzz and the hype and this and that. It’s a story of a man going through an extraordinary circumstance. And I do feel it needs to be engaged with in its own quiet, reflective way” Honestly, I couldn’t have put it in better words myself.
While the basic plot is nothing new and almost everybody knows about the atrocities that the white masters committed on their black slaves during this dark period in American history, this movie needs to be watched if not for anything, but to admire the craft that the director has displayed by choosing to take a relatively detached view of the plot while using the viewpoint of the main protagonist himself to narrate the story to us.
One word of caution though, do not watch this movie if you get queasy at the sight of blood and raw violence, because there at least a couple of scenes where slaves are whipped which are quite graphic in nature.