12 Years a Slave

"Extraordinary"

12 Years a Slave Review


Much more than a film about 19th century slavery in America, this sharply well-told true story has a lot to say about the world we live in today. And as he did in Hunger and Shame, filmmaker Steve McQueen puts us right into the middle of the story so we live it ourselves. Watching this film is a riveting, unnerving and ultimately moving experience.

It's based on a firsthand account by Solomon Northrup (Ejiofor), a musician who is living with his family in 1841 Saratoga, New York, when two friendly men offer him a great gig. But they drug him and sell him to slave traders, who send him to New Orleans and strip him of his identity. He spends the next 12 years working for two masters. Ford (Cumberbatch) is a fair man who puts him under the watchful eye of the cruel Tibeats (Dano). Then he is sold to Epps (Fassbender), a harsh boss who sends him into cotton fields and angrily suspects that Solomon is more educated than he admits.

Made with an earthy, realistic style, there's a clear sense that McQueen and screenwriter Ridley stuck closely to the details of Northrup's memoir, which was published shortly after his release and became a bestseller at the time. By never indulging in Hollywood-style exaggeration, the events remain grounded in the characters, drawing on the spiky interaction between them. At the centre, Ejiofor is utterly magnetic, delivering a transparent performance that takes our breath away. In his terrified eyes, we experience this horror ourselves.

And the supporting cast is equally strong, with remarkable performances from rising-star actresses Oduye, Paulsen and especially Nyong'o as a fellow slave who has a particularly harrowing experience of her own. (The only false note is Pitt, who tries too hard to be worthy, but his role is pivotal.) In the end, what lifts the film far above the pack is the way it refuses to make anyone a hero or villain. Even the nastiest characters are complex and eerily understandable. Which gives the film a ring of truth that makes it impossible for us to watch without thinking about how slavery is even more rampant today than it was back then, from human trafficking to extraordinary rendition.

Watch the '12 Years a Slave' Trailer



12 Years a Slave

Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 134 mins

In Theaters: Friday 8th November 2013

Budget: $20M

Production compaines: New Regency Pictures, Plan B Entertainment, River Road Entertainment, Regency Enterprises, Film4

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

IMDB: 8.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , , Jeremy Kleiner, Dede Gardner,

Starring: as Solomon Northup, as Edwin Epps, as William Ford, as John Tibeats, as Theophilus Freeman, as Brown, as Patsey, Adepero Oduye as Eliza, as Mary Epps, as Samuel Bass, as Robert (as Michael Kenneth Williams), as Mistress Shaw, as Clemens, as Hamilton, as Radburn, Kelsey Scott as Anne Northup, as Judge Turner, as Margaret Northup, as Armsby, as Uncle Abram, Dickie Gravois as Overseer, Ashley Dyke as Anna, Cameron Zeigler as Alonzo Northup, as Mr. Moon, as Burch, Mister Mackey Jr. as Randall, Craig Tate as John, Storm Reid as Emily, Tom Proctor as Biddee, as Captain, Vivian Fleming-Alvarez as Mulatto Woman, Douglas M. Griffin as Sailor, John McConnell as Jonus Ray, Marcus Lyle Brown as Jasper, Richard Holden as Fitzgerald, as Parker, as Cape, James C. Victor as Buyer (as J. C. Victor), Liza J. Bennett as Mistress Ford, Nicole Collins as Rachel, J.D. Evermore as Chapin (as JD Evermore), Andy Dylan as Treach, Deneen Tyler as Phebe (as Deneen D. Tyler), Mustafa Harris as Sam, Gregory Bright as Edward, Austin Purnell as Bob, Thomas Francis Murphy as Patroller, Andre Shanks as Victim 1, Kelvin Harrison as Victim 2, Scott M. Jefferson as Master Shaw, Isaiah Jackson as Zachary, Topsy Chapman as Slave Spiritual Singer 1, Devin Maurice Evans as Slave Spiritual Singer 2, Jay Huguley as Sheriff, Devyn A. Tyler as Margaret Northup (adult), Willo Jean-Baptiste as Margaret's Husband, as Celeste (uncredited)

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