Steve McQueen's Twelve Years A Slave tells the true story of Solomon Northrop, a free black man living in New York who is kidnapped while in Washington D.C. and sold into slavery. The film chronicles the trials and tribulations of Solomon as he goes from owner to owner never shying away from the raw, unspeakable horror which slavery was. Going into Twelve Years A Slave I was a bit concerned that McQueen would tone down his craft in directing this film but for the most part he doesn't, creating a nightmarish portrait of this stain in American history. Solomon is a man who faces nearly insurmountable odds when it comes to seeing his family ever again, but he never gives up hope. Make no mistake, this film can be hard to watch at times, with McQueen lingering on imagery, forcing the viewer to witness the unspeakable brutality. McQueen uses juxtaposition to devastating effect, with the cries of agony routinely layered over imagery. 12 Years A Slave is deeply personal but it also has a lot of interesting commentary on the culture and economic environment of the time. The film captures how the slaves were essentially currency for these plantation owners, their way of life while never demonizing every southern individual like so many other films tend to do. Benedict Cumberpatch's character Ford is incredibly important in that regard, a decent man who seems almost stuck in the dark and barbaric circumstances around him. He is not an evil monster and serves as a nice counterpoint to Michael Fassbender's insidious character. Featuring an amazing cast and a top notch filmmaker, Twelve Years of Slavery is the pinnacle of films about American slavery and should not be missed.
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