12 Years a Slave
Theatrical Release: 11/20/2013
Reviewer: Edwin L. Carpenter
Writer: John Ridley & Solomon Northup
Producer: Dede Gardner
Director: Steve McQueen
Runtime: 134 min.
MPAA Rating: R
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor,
Michael K. Williams,
Based on an incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender) as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon's chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) forever alters his life.
This movie clearly shows the cruelty of slavery and the depths that human depravity can go to when humans are treated like less than people due to their race. The movie states up front it is based on a true story, that of Solomon Northup, powerfully portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Solomon is a free back man living in New York. He makes a good living and is married with children. He is hired to play music (he is excellent on the violin) and soon winds up being taken captive, placed in a cell, beaten, and sold as a slave. He spends the next twelve years being whipped, nearly hung, treated worse than a dog, and in addition has to watch those around him being treated just as badly. One slave master, a married man, has sex with one of his female slaves. Another slave owner, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, regularly reads the Bible to his slaves and yet we hear the cries of a slave woman (as the man reads aloud) who was ripped away from her children.
The movie realistically portrays the horrors of those who lived without much, if any, hope. An abolitionist named Bass (Brad Pitt) finally offers Solomon a possible way back to his old life. While the story is compelling, due to the nudity, sex, and language, we are unable to consider this a family film.
Sex: Married man has sex with his slave; a male slave and woman have sex.
Language: GD-3; For G's Sake-1; G/OMG-2; the words "nig*er" and "nig*ers" are used constantly by racists and also by some blacks; a man is called a "Beast"; D-9; "D you, D you all"; B-3; H-2; H (as a place)-2; Damnation-1
Violence: Blacks are constantly abused, whipped and slapped; one woman is beaten until her back is bloody; a man is beaten several times and we see his bloody shirt and back; a woman throws a bottle at another; two men are hung and it is graphic; one slave is nearly hung and barely survives by standing on his toes; a slave fights back and whips a man who had been abusing him; a black man's wife is taken away to be abused on a ship and he is stabbed and his corpse thrown overboard; a slave master's wife scratches a slave on the face, leaving bloody marks; guns held on a few characters.
Drugs: Drinking of wine; a few characters get drunk and act badly.
Nudity: Rear male nudity and side nudity of slaves bathing; female rear nudity and full frontal female nudity as well as partial frontal male nudity; cleavage; shirtless men.
Other: Man gets sick and vomits a bit; man spits; a slave owner reads the Bible while owning slaves and having taken a woman from her children; slave dies from the heat while picking cotton.