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Review 12 Years a Slave (2013)

genre: drama

It's not hard to imagine that the subject of 12 Years a Slave is bound to lead to debate on all fronts. Despite the importance I can honestly say that the viewing experience for me personally was underwhelming at times to say the least. The premise appealed to me since this film was supposed to be an account of a black man born in freedom who got kidnapped and sold as a slave. What we get subjected to is the usual horrendous cruelties that have occurred. While it is not my intention to downplay this I do want to add that other than this there is not much happening. I already have seen what slavery in the United States entailed. There already is a lot of material on that. However what I was interested in I did not get to see properly. What was life like for black people born in freedom? Were they really being tolerated and respected as 12 Years a Slave suggests? Did they really have the same rights as white people? These are the things I was hoping to see and sadly it was left out. Actually a lot of questions raised about events don't get answered and would have made a world of difference into understanding the situation and how it must have felt for Solomon. Why was Solomon targeted? Were these kidnappings done by disgruntled white people who hated to see these black people in freedom? Did they do this on a small scale or was this common practice? If so how was it that Solomon wasn't suspicious in the slightest of these white men luring him into an offer he couldn't refuse? Were people in those regions not informed about this? Or was this information being censored? Answering these questions would have made a much more compelling film and would have made the monstrosities given some weight and meaningful context plus providing better understanding of where Solomon came from. Apart from a few interactions we don't get to see what the other slaves think of Solomon. In one incredible harsh scene it is implied they care very little or are so afraid of repercussions that they force themselves not to care. Here is where some scenes of the dynamics between Solomon and the others could have shed more light on things. Despite the film focusing on the horrors I do understand why the film is getting praised. It has these moments that are incredibly powerful that touch you and can't get let go of. Mostly this is because of an excellent Chiwetel Ejiofor. The man can act. He is has been pretty consistent in all the movies I have seen him in but for some reason still is relative unknown. 12 Years a Slave definitely will put him on the map. However this still does not change the fact that this film does not really give you a new perspective on the subject. Overall 12 Years a Slave is an adequate film but frankly speaking only deserving of praise when it comes to the performances and cinematography.


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