Based on a true story and a book from 1853, 12 Years A Slave tells of Solomon Northrup, a free black man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Northrup was living in upstate NY and had a family including a wife and children…
The story is brutal, painful to watch. The pain inflicted makes the film hard to watch at times; one marvels that as humans we’re even capable of these things. Sad, really. Films like this serve as an important lesson to remind us of why we need to continue to grow and evolve so we never repeat the mistakes we’ve made in the past.
Brilliantly written, the story sets the tone with Northup’s family and how close he is to them. The set up has all the more impactful resonance when he is ripped away from these people he loves so much and becomes lost in a world of beatings, hard labor, and hardship beyond measure.
The acting for the most part is superb. There are a couple of weak moments with side characters as the dialog is a mouthful. The main characters are portrayed expertly by an impressive lineup with Chiwetel Ejiofor in the lead giving a command performance. He deserves the Oscar if he wins, just FYI. The lineup includes Brad Pitt (who also produced), Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodard, and Michael Fassbender (another powerful performance here as well).
Steve McQueen directs and brings an authentic touch that sets a realistic world of that era. The clothing, the props, are all spot on. He also knows how to work with pacing to set nice dramatic moments offset by the more violent points.
Definitely worth seeing why this film has 9 Oscar nominations…
reviewed by Sean McKnight