Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch
Director: Steve McQueen
12 Years A Slave is a movie that is already being tipped as a major Oscar contender, the film won’t be hitting the big screen until early next year. The movie sees Steve McQueen return to the director’s chair and he has delivered another gem.
Hunger and Shame are movies that have grabbed people’s attention, but 12 Years A Slave is set to cement him as a major directing force.
When you go to see a film that is surrounded in so much hype, it rarely lives up to the expectations: 12 Years A Slave really bucks that trend.
This is a brutal, powerful and moving film and it will grab your attention from the opening scene to the final credits – even more so when you know that this movie is based on a true story.
12 Years A Slave is based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.
Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender) as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity.
In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Pitt) forever alters his life.
Chiwetel Ejiofor is just magnificent in the central role of Solomon Northup. This is a movie that looks at the strength of this central character: Northup is incredibly strong who never breaks.
He shows remarkable strength as he fights to stay alive and find a way back to his family. Solomon faces tough times and hard decisions along the way and yet he never allows himself to fall into despair.
Ejiofor has always been a fine actor and yet this looks set to be the role that really makes audiences, critics and Hollywood sit up and take notice.
There’s a fantastic ensemble cast on show as Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt and Paul Dano, and yet it is Michael Fassbender who delivers the knockout performance.
Edwin Epps is plantation owner and he is just one of the most despicable characters that we will see on the big screen this year. It is a powerhouse performance from Fassbender as he delivers a dark and incredibly brutal performance.
He is angered and confused by the feelings that he has for Patsy, one of the women working on the plantation, and it fills him with a hatred. Fassbender always delivers a great performance when working with McQueen, and this time around he goes somewhere that he has never been before – he really is just marvellous.
Some may argue that this movie and certain scenes are too long – the hanging scenes being the perfect example. But by not conforming , McQueen not only shows the brutality of the time, but also what Solomon had to endure. If you didn’t see and truly understand his suffering the final few scene would not be as powerful as it is.
McQueen is a director who has never shied away from the harsh realities of the truth: the truth this time around is the slaves facing the horrific lashing. McQueen is brutal in showing this – the final lashing really does make for very uncomfortable viewing.
12 Years A Slave is one of the best movies to tackle the tough subject of slavery, and what makes it so fantastic is McQueen refuses to sensationalise in any way. It is gritty, raw and real, and that is what makes it so powerful – it is a film that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.
The BFI London Film Festival runs from 9th – 20th October. The film is released 24th January.