I felt like hell.
As if my soul were ripped out by the neck, then put through the ringer, after which it was beaten up a few times, before it was forced back into my body. This is one of the most brutal movies I have seen, one that unnerved me of how cruel humanity could become; a feat that has not been met since when I saw Schindler’s List over a decade ago. It’s also one of the best movies of the year.
The film follows Solomon Northup, a black man born free and educated in New York and living with his wife and two children. After witnessing his happy family life, we see that he is tricked by two con men into working in Washington, D.C. before being sold into slavery. His name stripped from him, he keeps his true identity of being born free and educated for fear of being killed. For 12 years, he suffered as a slave in Louisiana before a sympathetic abolitionist assisted Solomon in escaping his hell.
The film is carried by Chiwitel Ejiofor as you follow his performance of Solomon Northup. His performance is nothing short of pure concentrated anguish and perseverance. You can feel every moment of suffering he endures, and you can feel the emotional it takes on him when his fellow slaves suffer.
And that’s really what separates this film from any other film about slavery you may have seen. While other films have shown the physical toll the institution of slavery had on others, movie has ever really shown you the mental state of a slave. No film had adequately made you understand how helpless these people, how they themselves saw themselves as sub-human. This was the true atrocity of slavery, a wound on the history of the United States that many have not been able to even reconcile it even happened.
But happened it did, thanks to monster slave owners. One of which is performed by Michael Fassbender , who delivers the most psychotic, despicable, rotten villains in film history. This realization was only made more horrifying in knowing that someone like this actually existed. You grow to hate him, but worse you’re terrified of him. Fassbender delivers a truly unpredictable performance, something truly frightening. Some may be reminded of Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in Django Unchained, but I’d like to confront people who liked that movie with this and say “LOOOOOOOK, turns out you didn’t have to make a fucking cartoon about the subject.”
Because this movie doesn’t give you a character that’s removed from slavery seeing how horrible it is. You follow the slave, and all that he must endure. Some cast member like Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamtti, and Brad Pitt turn in very subdued performances, if only to connect the story. But others like Sarah Paulson show other dark undersides in a film packed to the brim with atrocities.
But I have to give credit to Adupero Oduyeo, who plays as Eliza. A slave who becomes the object of Fassbender’s slave master’s affection, repeatedly raped through the film. She also suffers the worst of the whipping scenes, one that had me turning away. I had my hands in my head for a majority of this movie. I was on the verge of tears. This is one of the hardest movies I have ever seen, and quite possibly I don’t want to watch again.
But I am telling you, whoever reads this, to please see this film. No, I’m begging you to see this. This is one of the greatest movies of the year, and it’s an important cultural milestone. Please watch as this is deserving of the highest rating…
BETTER THAN SEX