Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

12 Years a Slave This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Custom User Avatar
More by this author
Hope is a dangerous thing. It can make someone cling to a dream with all their might, but it can also destroy their spirit in the process. Hope is all that Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has left, and he clings to it, believing he will eventually find freedom and justice.
Solomon, a free black man living in New York, is a violinist with a loving family. He can read and write. He knows the people who live in town. One day, when his family is away, he thinks he's scored a great gig. Two men promise he will return home with good money in hand. Instead, Northup finds himself in shackles and his story as a slave begins.
This is not an easy film to watch. Director Steve McQueen (“Shame,” “Hunger”) is known for his bold telling of difficult yet honest stories. Here, he takes his time, especially during the most gut-wrenching moments. He never hides the truth and never allows his actors to lie. Honesty is key because many scenes involve evil human acts that are almost as hard to believe as they are to witness.
All the actors, from Paul Dano and Benedict Cumberbatch to Lupita Nyong'o and Michael Fassbender, are impeccable. Each embraces his role and is not afraid to look evil or vulnerable. Some are placed in devastating and humiliating situations. Nyong'o is a standout and deserves her Oscar for her heartbreaking and complex portrayal of Patsy. Fassbender is despicable, yet you can't look away. Ejiofor embodies Solomon and gives his character dignity.
Even among whippings, laborious cotton-picking, and beautiful shots of the landscape, the film remains human. The contrast between the natural world and what happens inside the homes is haunting. The beautiful images of nature serve as a break from the horrific scenes, but these shots are not gratuitous; they add a layer of poetic storytelling.
One particular scene I ­enjoyed was a short one. As the slaves are being transported by boat to the South, the camera focuses on the massive steam engine. Suddenly, Hans Zimmer's beautiful score grows louder and more jarring. The audience becomes aware that the people on this ship are about to live through the one of the worst periods of American history.
Calling “12 Years a Slave” a great film does not suffice. With a film as gritty, evocative, and poetic as this, it is better to let the story speak for itself. McQueen advises viewers to take a moment of silence after to process what they've experienced. Don't let the subject matter keep you away from this brilliant, important, and well-made film. “12 Years a Slave” is one of the best of the year.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




Join the Discussion


This article has 1 comment. Post your own!

Musicgig said...
Apr. 24 at 3:30 pm:
I agree with everything you are saying. The movie should or might have inspired lots of people to think differently. 
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Site Feedback