In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty as well as unexpected kindnesses Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist will forever alter his life.
Sometimes, I just have to stop my brain in the middle of a film and just admire its exceptional craftsmanship. I found myself doing that time and time again during this film. Perhaps I was more open to admiring the shot compositions and acting choices because, as I cynically told myself before the film, it's not like I needed much convincing that slavery was bad. Or perhaps it was because I was shielding myself from the honest brutalities the film convincingly portrayed. Nonetheless, I was reminded of the film "Children of Men," because when I watched that, I was struck by how easily I could imagine a less engaging, more dumbed-down version of the same film. I haven't seen enough films about slavery to know this for certain, but I suspect that because many of this film's principals are British, telling a story about a free man who was forced into slavery, as opposed to one born into it, they were able to be gain some valuable distance from the subject and craft something that's both beautiful and feels true to life. And even though I thought I could not have been made to feel worse than I already did about slavery, the post-scripts on the lack of justice Solomon received for his kidnapping and the unknown causes of his death, helped keep the film from lapsing into a kind of "triumph of the spirit" happy ending others might have imposed.
New Regency Pictures, Plan B Entertainment, River Road Entertainment, Regency Enterprises, Film4 Productions by Steve McQueen, John Ridley, Solomon Northup.
Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Kenneth Williams, Michael Fassbender.
Genres: Biography, Drama, History
Keywords: slavery plantation based on memoir or autobiography violin player physical abuse black slave usa history slave owner 19th century sold into slavery abolitionist abuse of power african american history
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