12 Years a Slave
Based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender) as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) forever alters his life.
This movie clearly shows the cruelty of slavery and the depths that human depravity can go to when humans are treated like less than people due to their race. The movie states up front it is based on a true story, that of Solomon Northup, powerfully portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Solomon is a free back man living in New York. He makes a good living and is married with children. He is hired to play music (he is excellent on the violin) and soon winds up being taken captive, placed in a cell, beaten, and sold as a slave. He spends the next twelve years being whipped, nearly hung, treated worse than a dog, and in addition has to watch those around him being treated just as badly. One slave master, a married man, has sex with one of his female slaves. Another slave owner, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, regularly reads the Bible to his slaves and yet we hear the cries of a slave woman (as the man reads aloud) who was ripped away from her children.
The movie realistically portrays the horrors of those who lived without much, if any, hope. An abolitionist named Bass (Brad Pitt) finally offers Solomon a possible way back to his old life. While the story is compelling, due to the nudity, sex, and language, we are unable to consider this a family film.