12 Years a Slave
12 Years a Slave is a movie that its hard not to compare to Schindler’s List. They both tackle two relatively recent human atrocities while also attempting to be a watchable and memorable film. And while the two movies are certainly different in story structure, I believe that 12 Years a Slave still succeeds in this goal.
The world of slavery is seen through the eyes of Solomon Northrup, a free man who is tricked into slavery and taken from his family. Through his eyes we see the injustices done to the black population and get a strong sense of the scope of this issue. What director McQueen does well is to not only show the physical torture they were put through, but he also focuses on how their dignity was destroyed as well, through scenes like the auction.
Why 12 Years a Slave works is because it doesn’t over-sentimentalize the drama that is being played out. It is more of a window into what was happening. And the fact that the technical aspects, the costumes and production design and cinematography, did such an amazing job of establishing both the time and the place only reinforced this notion. The excellent performances by almost the whole cast also added to this sense of realism. As a result the movie feels genuine, and not just a typical heart-string tugger.
Of course we all intrinsically know about the horrors of slavery, but just like with Schindler’s List, once you are watching it play out in front of you, there is a visceral response that really makes it real. This is part of the power of film, and 12 Years a Slave holds that power well.