As I sat there in the theater looking up at the screen, I couldn’t help but realize that Chiwetel Ejiofor, the star of 12 Years A Slave, is going to win an Oscar for best actor. There’s no question. Ejofor convinces you, in every way, that he is a man living in Antebellum America who's torn from his family and thrown into slavery. You feel his torment as he’s moved from one plantation to the next, each place providing its own brand of horror.
Though the images of violence and hatred are prevalent and often times uncomfortable, despite this, the over lining theme of hope and the will to survive is never lost in the film. Solomon Northup (Ejiofor) never looses faith in himself, and never falls to despair. Though he has no one to talk to, and never once speaks to himself through narration or to an empty room, through his actions in the film we know that he has faith that he will one day return to his family. That is part of the magic of the film. It expresses words and ideas by actions and images rather than spelling it out for you with a simple line of dialogue.
As for the horrors of the film, director Steve McQueen opts to depict them honestly, showing us the savagery of country’s past in all its colors. But the most shocking parts of the film are not the images of brutality, but of the actors portraying those people doomed to a life of torture and ridicule. We feel their plight, and we sorrow for them.
The world that McQueen has created is so powerful, so palpable, that it feels as if one has traveled back in time as they sit they’re watching his beautifully crafted film. And yes, I do say beautifully, for what McQueen has created in 12 Years A Slave is nothing short of that. It’s a film that must be seen, for it tells us a story that must not be forgotten.