The Academy Awards are about a week away, and one of the nominees for Best Actor is a familiar face to Browncoats. Chiwtel Ejiofor, who played the Operative in Serenity, has a good chance of winning after his incredible depiction of Solomon Northup in 12 Years A Slave. This is a revised version of a review I did a few months ago. If you haven’t had a chance to see this movie, see it at Amazon video or iTunes on now, or on DVD on March 4th.
American history is filled with chapters that aren’t easy to look at. That includes the years before the Civil War, where the nation had to deal with slavery and its treatment of African-Americans.
The movie is based on a book written by a free Black from New York state, Solomon Northrup, who meets two men who promise him a job, but actually sell him in to slavery. He tries to identify himself, but without proof, he has lost his identity and even his name. The movie makes it clear that even a free Black’s status can be taken away by losing his papers, just because of the color of his skin.
The movie, directed by Steve McQueen, doesn’t pull any punches on how slaves were treated. Seeing some of the slaves whipped is a painful experience. Showing how they were sold, even nude, to people is even more shocking. When Paul Giamatti as Freeman presents slaves for sale, it’s almost as if he’s a used car salesman.
Northup, now called Platt, is sold to Shaw (Benedict Cumberbatch), who seems to be reasonable. However, Tibeats (Paul Dano) takes a disliking to Platt, mainly because he’s smarter than Tibeats. Platt is later sold to Epps (Michael Fassbender), who is a cruel master, and sometimes has sex with Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o), a field slave. How his wife Mary (Sarah Paulson, who was also in Serenity) deals with this fact is even more disturbing. She doesn’t like what Epps is doing, but she doesn’t really stop him. In her mind, it’s also Patsey’s fault.
Through the years, Platt does what he can to survive and find a way to escape back north. As the years go by, Platt is slowly broken down. Seeing his face in full despair is something you don’t forget.
He does get some hope thanks to Bass (Brad Pitt), a Canadian carpenter. Even if Platt regains his true identity, he may still lose valuable things he’ll never get back.
12 Years A Slave isn’t an easy movie to see. It is still worth watching. It shows a piece of American history that’s not discussed very often, but should be to remind us how we’ve advanced.
Ejiofor is the best. His abilities as an actor have been getting a lot of notice as he shows Northup’s determination slowly collapse into resignation as the years advance. Fassbender is chilling as Epps, who says he can do anything to his “property”, even force Platt to do an unspeakable thing. Nyong’o is also great as Patsey, someone who has made some unpleasant decisions to survive. Cumberbatch is also good, showing that not all slave owners were bad. At least he recognized Platt was not a typical slave.
Ejiofor won the BAFTA award for Best Actor, and is considered one of the favorites come Oscar time. He may have to overcome the momentum that Matthew McConaughey has received for Dallas Buyers Club. Still, many Browncoats will be rooting for Ejiofor on March 2nd.
If you’d like to order the 12 Years A Slave DVD, click here for the Amazon link.