Definitely not the feel good movie of the year, but a movie that does manage to be enjoyable despite its really tough subject matter. It’s beautiful to look at, has mostly good performances, and looks at a kind of slavery story we don’t always hear much about.
I guess the idea of being kidnapped from the north and being brought to the south to be sold into slavery isn’t any more or less cruel than any other pathway to slavery, but it certainly feels that way when you see it played out on screen. I guess the main character, Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor), being an educated black man in the north, has a sense that he is removed from the nightmare of slavery. So when he wakes to find himself in chains, it’s not just shocking, but totally unfair. Thus the mood is set for the rest of the film, where we the viewer constantly hope that his real identity will be discovered, and the illegality of his slavery will be revealed because it’s just not fair that HE would be a slave. Which, of course, we realize is true for EVERYBODY who is a slave.
Some of what we see, we have seen many times before. If it’s a movie about slavery, it’s going to have whipping, and cruelty, and the occasional sympathetic white person, but this movie does some of those same things in a way that makes it really hit home just how horrible and bleak it all was. Plus it pulls out a few scenes that were certainly new to me.
A few of the accents could have been better, and Brad Pitt’s character (or maybe just his appearance) felt forced, but overall the acting was top notch. And hey, good to see Paul Dano step outside of the box and play a character unlike anything I’ve seen him play!
Overall, I guess you could call this a must-see, even if just to remind yourself of how bad things can be, and how crazy it is that people are capable of such horrors. Seriously, this stuff happened. Not that long ago. Ugh.