And now that I think about it...is there anything more to it? I mean, it's a great movie, based on the real story of Solomon Northup. It's very well made, acting was incredible, but...is 'Slavery = Bad' really much of a lesson? Amy Poehler got a good laugh at the Golden Globes by quipping how she "can honestly say that after seeing that film, I will never look at slavery the same way again."
Well, for some who claim the Civil War was about other issues, or that slaves liked the good masters (only the cruel masters were a problem,) I guess they do need some reminding. But I'm willing to believe that they're a small but vocal fringe element. More importantly, if a system condones--even rewards--cruelty, than the system is the problem, not the cruel actors. There is arguably one "good" master in the movie. But when the chips are down, he doesn't prevent Solomon from being abused, he sells him to a cruel master. Not necessarily because he wants Solomon to be abused, but because he thinks he's powerless to do anything else (he claims he's saving Solomon's life.)
Perhaps just as important is the fact of how he's saved (and I apologize in advance for giving away some spoilers.) There is a man with a conscience (conspicuously, he's Canadian.) And when he hears Solomon's story he agrees to help, to send a letter to Solomon's friends in the North. And abruptly they show up, produce papers proving he's a free man, and he's taken home. Perhaps a message for our times is how easy it is--once you decide to act on conscience--to right a wrong.
Or perhaps the message for our times is less optimistic. After all, the men who kidnapped and sold Solomon were caught and put on trial, but never punished. Perhaps the message is that when injustice is tolerated on a grand scale, the injustice easily infiltrates areas where it's thought not to be.
No, there's still plenty to think about in 12 YEARS A SLAVE even if you're already comfortably anti-slavery.
Running Time: 134 minutes
My Total Minutes: 347,054