Average User Score: 8.0Jan 31, 2014Once again Hollywood waves its sanctimonious wand over history with this glossy movie about slavery in the United States. Like aOnce again Hollywood waves its sanctimonious wand over history with this glossy movie about slavery in the United States. Like a self-righteous teetotaler telling off an alcoholic, it is a sentimental, holier-than-thou piece that challenges you to criticize it or ´you’re a racist too´. Following in the footsteps of Django it uses the excuse of history and a worthy theme to justify gratuitous scenes of violence.
The film begins in the home of the central character, Solomon Northop, a free black man, who lives a genteel life with his family in New York. The director is clearly eager to get to the gory bits though, and within the first ten minutes Solomon has been kidnapped, enslaved, and the audience is cringing under a close up of his contorted face during a twenty minute whipping scene; the first of many to come.
The film continues in this vein, as we follow Solomon’s journey through an array of increasingly evil slave-owners. There is a segregation of personality in the film, with most of the black characters being good and moral and the white ones evil. Surely it is as patronizing and insulting to assume personality is dependent on colour as it is politically correct. At least the same cannot be said of gender, the white women are as evil as their male counterparts. However no film about slavery is complete without our token good white guy, and Brad Pitts rises to the occasion, strolling in bearded and ready to play, once again, the hero.
One does wonder why Solomon doesn´t send a letter under his ´mistress´name on one of his frequent forays to the shop. (Of course, his one attempt to run away is thwarted when after two steps he stumbles on a lynching scene). Perhaps the point the director is trying to make is that Solomon is too broken and scared to do this. He is too proud, however, to pick the cotton quota demanded by the sadistic slave-owner. A necessary contradiction perhaps, as this allows more whipping scenes as he is punished daily.
Or why, instead of trying and failing to write a letter with a blunt bamboo stick and watery juice, he doesn´t simply use the candle end and stain the paper instead. But it is not a film for the details. Nor the historical overview.
It is two hours of increasing brutality, culminating with a horrendous scene where one girl is whipped until her flesh is exposed. Instead of taking one of the many examples of modern day slavery however, which could leave people feeling guilty at inaction, it is set far enough in the past that it allows the audience to do their cinema time, and leave feeling as worthy and sanctimonious as the director.… Expand