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The best scenes are when Northup doesn't react the way a black man in mid-19th century Louisiana was expected to.
Top marks also go to Lupita Nyong'o for her powerful (and painfully torturous) first big screen role, as Louisiana cotton plantation slave and constant rape victim Patsey. Absolutely watch for more great work from this new rising star. As well, once again, Paul Dano flawlessly nails his on-screen character, this time playing John Tibeats. Tibeats is easily one of the most despicably racist sacks of crap Northup has to contend with during his relentless Hell. Also worth watching for is Michael Fassbender's often volcanic performance as Northup's eventual, dangerously unstable owner, Edwin Epps. Good stuff.
Frankly, the only flaws in this picture come when the artistic license of Ridley's otherwise carefully crafted screenplay change certain aspects of Northup's original manuscript or omit historical fact for the sake of simplifying the storytelling process for a contemporary movie-going audience. For instance, you'll know lots more happens and ends differently in the book if you're familiar with it. As well, Brad Pitt's brief speaking role as Northup's source of salvation, Canadian journeyman Samuel Bass, tends to suggest a mild impression the slavery of black people never actually happened here in Canada for over two centuries until 1834. It's a bit of a nitpick, but I mention the caveats because it's doubtful a whole lot of people either disinterested in Northup or unfamiliar with the history of that era will consider paying the price of admission - unless an easily deserved Oscar nod or two materialize.
12 Years A Slave definitely isn't for everyone. Chiwetel Ejiofor's A-Game lead along with the vast majority of performances are all absolutely incredible, and the story of Solomon Northup's real experiences as interpreted here is thoroughly compelling from beginning to closing credits. If you can appreciate exceptional talent and get past the demanding task of witnessing every horrible aspect of slavery anyone could expect, do yourself a huge favour and check it out. Reviewed 11/13, © Stephen Bourne, moviequips.ca.
12 Years A Slave is rated 14A
by the Ontario Film Review Board, citing occasional gory/grotesque
images, use of expletives, mild sexual references, slurs, nudity
in a non-sexual context, occasional upsetting or disturbing scenes,
embracing and kissing, fondling, sexual innuendo, implied sexual
activity, and violent acts shown in clear, unequivocal and realistic
detail with blood and tissue damage, and is rated 13+ by la Régie
du Cinéma in Québec.
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