18 October 2013 0 Comments

In Theaters Now…”12 Years a Slave” paints haunting portrait of endurance!

12 slaveSet mostly in the pre-Civil War south, director Steve McQueen has fashioned a deeply evocative, and brilliantly acted drama, that graphically and poetically depicts the wide-ranging evils of slavery.

 

The film is based on Northup’s memoir, and director Steve McQueen’s deliberately paced style ideally suits the material. McQueen’s juxtaposition of intensely savage scenes with lush natural beauty, interlaced with ambient sound, is a disturbingly vivid filmmaker choice.

McQueen, who made 2011’s Shame,creates one of the most graphic portrayals of slavery ever depicted on screen. A long scene in which Northup dangles from a tree with a noose around his neck, one foot grazing the ground as other slaves work around him, is particularly searing. It also symbolizes the precarious position Northup is in throughout his enslavement.

Review: '12 Years A Slave'

Tricked by a couple of hustlers into leaving his New York home, Northup believes he is going to Washington, D.C., to perform in a concert. He wakes up in chains in a dank cellar, the papers proving his status as a free man stolen. Soon, he’s transported to the deep South, with a falsified identity branding him as a runaway slave from Georgia. Sent to Louisiana, he toils for three different slave owners.

Northup doesn’t endure his sudden hardship without forging essential human connections, notably with Eliza (Adepero Oduye), whose young children are brutally taken from her, and Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o), the industrious young worker repeatedly raped and beaten by a slave owner.

Northup can’t reveal his ability to read or write for fear that he’ll incite the ire of the ignorant folks he works for. But his background as a craftsman draws the admiration of a slightly more humane slave owner, William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), who protects him from a murderous overseer (Paul Dano).

Northup’s non-servile ways also incur the wrath of Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), a particularly vicious and deranged slave owner and his sadistic, jealous wife (Sarah Paulson).

Born in the Adirondack Mountains, Northup is determined to survive in his new surroundings, steeling himself as others around him grow dead-eyed, weep disconsolately or resort to suicide.

Over the long years his determination to return to his wife and children in New York keeps him going. He won’t give in to hopelessness. But the audience despairs for him after he makes a few failed attempts to get word to his family.

A chance meeting with Canadian abolitionist Samuel Bass (Brad Pitt) changes Northup’s life.

Just as Northup’s 1853 memoir shrewdly exposed a detailed view of slavery to the American public, McQueen’s film offers contemporary audiences a meticulous and haunting look at this terrible chapter in American history.

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