Of the films released for rental this week, “12 Years a Slave” is the one you should consider giving a try. A relatively small independent film, “12 Years a Slave” has become something of a phenomenon, as it has swept the awards season and even picked up the Academy Award for Best Picture last Sunday night.

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If you missed it in theaters, you now have the opportunity to watch it right at home. And, you really should as this is a masterpiece that deserves to be seen and taken in by all.

 

“12 Years a Slave” is the third film from director Steve McQueen, and it’s probably his best. Adapted from the 1853 memoir, the film follows Solomon Northup, a free black man living in New York who is kidnapped and sold as a slave, which he remains for 12 years.

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This is not necessarily an enjoyable film. McQueen is a director of immense brutality and his films are often hard to watch. There is a scene that seems to go on forever in which we are watching Solomon being hung by his neck and just barely clinging on to life by standing in the mud on the tips of his toes. His fellow slaves go on with their lives in the background, paying no mind to our unfortunate hero. They are not phased by this torture, which illustrates just how totally normal such heinous acts were.

 

“12 Years a Slave” is certainly the most stunning, visceral, and unflinching portrayal of slavery ever put to film. But it’s also beautiful. Coming from a background in the arts, McQueen has a keen visual eye and his compositions are nearly perfect and always full of interest.

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The performances given by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, and Michael Fassbender are powerful and emotionally resonate. It’s no surprise that all three received Oscar nominations, with Nyong’o winning for Best Supporting Actress.

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“12 Years a Slave” ended up winning three Academy Awards last Sunday, with those being the aforementioned Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress, along with Best Adapted Screenplay for writer John Ridley.

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Have you seen 12 Years a Slave? Are you interested? Let me know in the comments below.