LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- THV11 Film Critic Jonathan Nettles discusses the movie 12 Years a Slave.
This has been a truly unique and remarkable fall season at the movies. Between Rush, Captain Phillips, Gravity, and now 12 Years a Slave it's going to be very difficult for Awards voters to decide between performances, films, and directors. The real winner out of this is you, moviegoer. You have a list of incredible movies to see this fall. Hopefully you have been to see all of them. If you haven't I still say that Gravity is the one you must see on the big screen. Even the newest of 52-inch plasmas will not do it justice. The rest is up to you. I can't tell you which one is better than the other because honestly, they're all good for different reasons.
This week's great film is 12 Year A Slave, which is the true story of Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York who is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing the cruelty and harshness of slave life, Solomon struggles to stay alive, retain his dignity and waits for his moment to be free again. He experiences various degrees of cruelty mixed with surprising moments of kindness. His first owner, Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) is kind to him but treats him as property nonetheless. He gives him a violin and acknowledges Solomon's intelligence and skill as an engineer but doesn't ask how a slave could know these things. While he believes in treating the slaves kindly, he doesn't care about the wrongs against them because he still has to make his business run. His owner for much of the movie, Edwin Epps (Michael Epps) has a harsh reputation as a "n****r breaker". He uses his slaves to pick cotton and for house entertainment, weighing their pickings at the end of the day. If you don't make your quota or if it is less than you picked the day before, you get strung up and whipped. He truly sees salves as nothing more than pieces of property that he can do with as he pleases. Solomon tries to stay under the radar, looking for his way while finding ways to survive in his harsh reality.
Chiwetel Ejiofor is an amazing actor. He delivers every line with purpose and emotion, every moment of fear, despair, anger, and heartache is worn in his eyes. I've watched him on screen for some time now. The first I saw him was in the science fiction film Serenity as a fugitive hunter. I knew that one day he would have a breakthrough and this is it. As of right now, he would be my pick for the Best Actor Academy Award. You shouldn't forget about Michael Fassbender as his slave owner, he truly embodies his character as well.
The film approaches slavery in a very sincere, honest, and brutal form. It is not sugarcoated and there is no humor to lighten the mood or break tension. It explores the hierarchy amongst the slaves and a perceived indifference to the suffering of their fellow man. On center display in 12 Year a Slave is man's inhumanity to man. It is shocking and difficult to believe that here in the United States of America, we could have ever treated people as we did.