Universal Truths: A Review of "12 Years a Slave" | Nick Olszyk | Catholic World Report
Although legal slavery has long been abolished in the U.S., we are still dealing with violations of universal truths
USCCB Rating, NA
Reel Rating: (4 Reels out of 5)
Oppression and unjust suffering are universal experiences of the world of sin that represents this fallen age, but it is a universal truth that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights.” 12 Years a Slave demonstrates how imperfectly the United States has, unfortunately, implemented this truth throughout its history. This oppression breeds hate and sin that permeate even the purest of men. Yet despite generations of seemingly endless persecution, hope and salvation always come, sometimes in sudden and serendipitous ways. 12 Years is one of the best films about American slavery because it is helmed by Steve McQueen, who has the uncanny ability to portray the reality of sin in graphical detail without losing human dignity or glorifying evil. It is a harrowing experience that reminds us that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is an average family man living in middle-class New York. The troubles of 1840s America seem far, far away until he is kidnapped and sold into slavery. He is brutally tortured until he accepts not only his unjust situation but a new identity as Platt Hamilton, a slave born and raised in the deep South. He is first bought by William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch, in one of six performances this year alone), who is as good a man as a plantation owner could be, even protecting Northup when he fights back against a malicious overseer (Paul Dano).
Northup survives but is sold to the ruthless Edwin Epps (McQueen favorite Michael Fassbender) who makes the lives of his slaves a perpetual nightmare.