A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: “12 YEARS A SLAVE” – 8 1/2

     “12 YEARS A SLAVE”   8 ½

 This is a good movie. I hated it.

     The movie was unnerving, uncomfortable, distressing and depressing. It was also riveting.

     Kids shouldn’t see this picture.  But, kids should see this picture. (High school level anyway)

     The movie will probably win some Oscars, but will not go big at the box office.

     Gobblygook? Confused? Well, here’s the story:

     The beginning is set in Saratoga, NY, 1841.  A well-educated violinist and family man is lured to a higher paying job, which ends up a trap for slave catchers. Solomon Northup, who is black, is extricated from his home and family and spends the next twelve years of his life sold and re-sold to southern plantation owners where he is not only witness to man’s inhumanity to man, he is often tortured, dehumanized and literally stripped of his identity.

     The picture would be more accurately categorized as a “horror” genre, because the writing, directing and acting leaves nothing to the imagination, graphically depicting murderous scenes where people are treated as useful insects, constantly degraded as human beings, some of whom plead for death. I’ve seen many pictures about the struggles of slavery. This is the most graphic ever.

     Most people my age know about these atrocities of the past, we’ve learned about the worst of times and the horrors that blacks endured, so I could have walked out in mid-movie and saved myself the tears. But many young people haven’t a clue. Yes, they were clinically taught about slavery in America, then walked away with their diplomas without a clear understanding of why and how so many black people remain angry to this day. Neither do they care.

     But they should.  This picture is an education for understanding. It’s not entertaining. It’s not cool. But it is an accurate snapshot of one man’s introduction into the life of gross cruelty, day after day, among hundreds of other blacks, all of whom had nothing to live for except to avoid as much anguish and pain as possible and then die.

     It’s not a movie for everyone. British director, Steve McQueen, himself a black man, does a credible job of drawing the audience into the moment, feeling, sensing, knowing every emotion that the pathetic slaves felt and lived through. The only things missing were the smells and the taste. Even so, you could smell and you could taste.

     And if the “N” word offends you, prepare to be offended.

     Chiwetel Ejiofor, another Brit born of Nigerian parents, is a well-vetted actor with many roles to his credit. This one will earn him an Oscar nomination and international fame.

     The story is based on a book by the same title, authored by Solomon Northup himself, sometime before 1863.

     I gave the picture an 8 ½ instead of a 10 because it was so disturbing. Some scenes were excruciatingly extended and – to my mind – could have been shortened or modified to being a bit less graphic while still getting the message across.  I heard one person ask “when will Hollywood stop cashing in on slavery in America?” A question to ponder.

     Following the movie, I made a stop at the men’s room, the story still flowing through my mind.  As I started back out the door, I came face-to-face with a man entering. He was black. I knew he had just seen this movie. He looked into my eyes.  He seemed intense and angry. I felt instantly uncomfortable. I thought he hated me…just for being white.

     For Brad Pitt, fans you’ll see him in a small role. He is also the producer.

      Click here: 12 Years a Slave (2013) – IMDb