British auteur, Steve McQueen tells the harrowing story of Solomon Northup in his latest film, 12 Years a Slave. In the latest adaptation of Northup’s autobiography, McQueen portrays the life of a free-born man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in an unforgiving manner. The 2013 film adaptation stars Chiwetel Ejiofor (Serenity), Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class), Paul Giamatti (Sideways), Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood), Brad Pitt (Moneyball, Fight Club) and a number of other well-known actors.
Solomon Northup’s story begins with him being a free man residing in New York, making a living as a fiddler. While having dinner with a couple of gentleman discussing a lucrative job offer, Solomon is kidnapped and then sold into slavery.
There are six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. —Proverbs 6:16-19
The deceit that fell upon Solomon not only took him away from his family and home, but also took him away from all he knew in his life. Solomon was forced into a life of slavery and sold to a plantation owner that was not only cruel in his ways, but also used Scripture to defend his treatment towards his slaves.
While others around him would seek to endure their struggles through silence and self-defeat, Solomon was able to endure his trials as a slave by choosing to live rather than solely to survive. An incredibly poignant quote from the film is when Solomon states, “I will survive. I will not fall into despair. I will keep myself hardy until freedom is opportune.”
The opportunity finally does arise when Solomon encounters a Canadian abolitionist played by Brad Pitt. Solomon uses this opportunity to get news to his family and ultimately frees himself from bondage.
The film unflinchingly depicts the horrors of slavery, the determination to survive and the goodness that can be found in others. Through his 12-year ordeal, Solomon comes into contact with a plethora of different characters, from the fellow slave that puts themselves in harm’s way on his behalf to the Canadian abolitionist that seeks to help a man they hardly know.
While many would not be able to maintain their dignity and internal strength through this type of ordeal, Solomon was not only able to endure it but was able to inspire and persevere.
12 Years a Slave is rated R for violence / cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality. The film has a runtime of 133 minutes.
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. —Isaiah 41:10