12 Years a Slave” is a powerful, sobering retelling of the 1853 autobiography by Solomon Northup, a New York free born negro who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1841 and sold into slavery given a slave name and whipped and beaten and made to toil in the cotton and sugar cane fields of Louisiana.
For 12 long years Solomon worked on plantations in Louisiana before his release. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives one of his absolute best performances as Solomon Northup. Solomon is shipped to New Orleans, Louisiana where he is given the name Platt. He’s beaten to force him to conceal his true identity. Platt is initially sold to plantation owner William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is a relatively kind master.
He helps Ford engineer a waterway for transporting logs swiftly downstream. After a racist carpenter resents and tries to kill Platt he is sold away for his protection to Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). Epps is a cruel master. Solomon spends the rest of his slavery under Epps cruel ownership. Whippings and threats become commonplace. While working on a building on the plantation Solomon meets a Canadian laborer by the name of Bass (Brad Pitt). Bass expresses his displeasure in the ownership of another human being. This convinces Northup to confide in Bass. Northup asks Bass to get a letter to his friends. He is freed thereafter.
The movie is driven by excellent acting. Fassbender is the essence of evil. The scenes of slavery are violent and emotional but you can’t turn away.
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