The story of Solomon Northup comes home to blu ray this week.
Some films are just hard to watch without wanting to turn away due to the sheer soul crushing nature of the story. 12 Years a Slave is one of those movies. Director Steve McQueen brings to life the memoir of Solomon Northup, a free back man in the 1850’s living a peaceful life with his family in the North until he is kidnapped and sold in to slavery.
From the cinematography, costumes, set design and acting, every aspect of this film is brilliantly executed. It all feels a little too real, which is a good thing except for the fact that what is unfolding in front of our eyes is at times brutal in its historical accuracy of the inhumanity and violence inflicted upon those sold in to slavery.
Chiwetel Ejiofor delivers a masterful performance as Solomon, taking us on a journey through the depths of hell, as he first struggles to come to terms with what has happened to him and ultimately how to survive it. Michael Fassbender plays slave owner Edwin Epps in what has to be one of the most difficult roles of his career. Lupita Nyong’o makes her first major movie role count in a big way as fellow slave Patsey. Other notable performances are turned in by Paul Giamatti, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch and Sarah Paulson.
This is a movie that (while hard to watch) needs to be seen. All too often the horrible realities of America's blood stained history are brushed to the side. While slavery was a common practice in much of the world, The United States was one of the last free nations to abolish it. I think there is real value in seeing something like this to remind people of what was once considered a normal and acceptable part of our culture.
12 Years a Slave just won three Oscars (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay) and nobody could have argued had it won more. This is without a doubt one of the best films of 2013 and an extremely powerful reminder that it is not enough to just survive, you have to live.