Darkness. Lightning flashes. The planes of what is not at first certainly recognizable as a human face. The wild rolling eye of what might be a desperate and panicked animal. A splash of color--blood seeping from fingers clawing at the shackles of...yes, it is...a man.

This sequence--quick cut, grainy, indelible--serves several functions. It forces us to recognize that slavery is something far worse than nonfreedom, that it is an institution that grants some men the right to utterly dehumanize other men. It completely justifies the bloody murders that ensue when this figure, Cinque (Djimon Hounsou), frees himself and leads the human...

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