The audience shrivels in fear for the slaves onscreen as they try to guess what other punishments will be bestowed upon them. “12 Years a Slave” exposes slavery for its horrible truth but it goes so much deeper than that.
The film takes us back to the 12 years that Solomon Northup, a free African-American man and what he endured after being drugged and sold back into slavery.
Chiwetel Ejiofor who plays Northup portrays the character of a witty man in despair who is fights for his life with the hope of reuniting back with his family.
Along with his gruesome experiences, Northup is sold into two plantations. The first owned by William Ford, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, a kind and understanding slave owner who grows fond of Northup. Tensions rise between Northup and Ford’s overseer, John Tibeats, played by Paul Dano, as it results to him being sold to the terrifying, abusive and alcholic plantation owner, Edwin Epps, played by Michael Fassbender.
At Epps’ plantation, a female slave named Patsey played by Lupita Nyong’o is someone who excels in picking the most cotton. Epps is attracted to Patsey and ends up raping and abusing her. Epp’s jealous wife, Mary Epps, played by Sarah Paulson, is aware of the adultry her husband has committed and this forces her to abuse Patsey as well.
Fassbender embodies his character by the way he looks at Patsey, the way he demeans the slaves and the way he ridicules them to dance for him at ungodly hours due to his drunken state. His body language makes the audience question his thoughts and what his next move will be. His acting is spot on with his character’s bipolar tendencies. Fassbender makes you look deeper beyond what is on the surface.
Through the first encounters, Patsey makes the best of her suffering by doing so in silence for fear of getting punished even more. She hums cheerfully while picking cotton and makes little dolls out of dead-old leaves.
Next to Northup’s character, Nyong’o endured very much. She is the master’s top worker whom he rapes and is then thrown around as a toy. She begs Northup to free her from her pain and drown her; which he refuses to do.
Nyong’o’s acting skills are superb. She played a character that many people will never fathom from the atrocities she has faced. She moved the audience in a way that made people sympathize with her and rooted for her freedom. This makes her worthy of standing next to Academy Award winning actresses.
The portrayal of Solomon Northup is one of, if not the best performance of the year thus far. The way he does what he’s told yet defies the master makes you feel as if you’re there with him. It leaves a lump in your throat and makes you fear for his life.
One of the most powerful scenes of the movie was when Epps forces Northup at gunpoint to whip Patsey. Epps threatens to shoot every slave in sight if Northup disobeys him.
Northup showed how a slave can only do so much, especially against one of his own. He eventually puts his life at risk for another. He whips Patsey, but now with the same anger and desire as Epps does.
Patsey’s back is shown with deep and thick blood filled lashes. The rest of the slaves nurture and cry along her side.
Steve McQueen’s angle of the movie not only showed the slave’s standpoint, he made it seem so real that the audience truly felt like they were a part of the film. It makes you feel the pain that Northup, Patsey and the rest of the slaves went through.
It’s seemingly different from previous films of slavery such as: “Gone with the Wind” or “Django Unchained.”
“12 Years a Slave” fills the audience with endless emotions and makes this a very plausible Oscar contender.