Written by Fourth Estate Lifestyle Reporter Andrew Davis
For years, directors have been releasing biographic films about the pre-Civil War era and the abolitionist movement such as “12 Years a Slave.”
Taking place in the early 19th century, the film follows Solomon Northup, a free African American living in Saratoga, New York with his family. Life seems to be going well until Northup meets two men who invite him to Washington, D.C. to perform his expert violin skills. Things take a turn for the worse when Northup finds himself shackled and stripped of his freedom, forced to become a slave. He must learn to survive, while also trying to find a way to alert authorities about his kidnapping and return to freedom.
Since its release, critics have been wildly buzzing about the film based on Northup’s memoirs. It has earned multiple awards, including the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Drama and the Academy Award for Best Picture. However, with the film finally making its way to Mason, I disagree with all the critical acclaim. I found the film to be overhyped and overrated by critics and audiences.
I do not necessarily think that “12 Years a Slave” is a bad film. What the film seems to accomplish is a strong cast of actors and actresses. Of all the actors, Chiwetel Ejiofor does the best job with his portrayal of Solomon Northup. I was able to get behind his performance from the moment he was enslaved.
Ejiofor is surrounded by a multitude of talented actors, including Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o. However, none were able to match the great amount of chemistry with Northup as William Ford, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. It is his chemistry with Northup that really takes the cake for the best moments of the entire film.
These key points are without a doubt the best parts in the film. However, by the second act, the film falls apart. The biggest complaint is that there is too much going on at once. By introducing too many subplots, the film becomes harder to follow as it progresses. There were points where I zoned out because I was completely lost. The cause for this unfortunate dilemma is also the writing. Since 12 years were needed to chronicle the entirety of Northup’s life, many events in the film were condensed. However, these events are introduced out of the blue and have little to no pay off by the end.
The acting for “12 Years a Slave” may be some of the most powerful I have seen all year, but the script needs improvement. The writing is too jumpy when trying to fit 12 years of Northup’s life into a two and a half hour movie.
If you would like to see what all the hype is about for yourself, drop by the JC Cinema on Saturday, March 8 at 6 p.m.