Review #49 12 Years A Slave

By Katy Daniels

Filled to the brim with graphic violent and sexual scenes, Steve McQueen’s portrayal of Solomon Northup’s true story as a once free man captured and forced into slavery by southern slave smugglers is both painful and yet beautiful.

12 Years a Slave (2013), is an adaptation of the memoires of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free man living with his wife (Kelsey Scott) and two children: Margaret (Quvenzhane Wallis) and Alonzo (Cameron Zeigler) in New York during the 1840s. Making money through his trade as a skilled carpenter and talented musician, Northup was a free man accepted by the community of the upper class in Saratoga Springs. Two men then come into Northup’s life under false pretences of a job opportunity, and instead drug and sell him into slavery. Solomon is sold to a number of different plantation owners and meets a number of different individuals along the way. These individuals include an impressive array of cameo performances by Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Gimatti, and Michael Fassbender (playing the heartless cotton plantation owner).

Although hosting an extraordinary cast, the true stars of the show were (somewhat unknown actor) Chiwetel Ejiofor and Steve McQueen. The combination of sharp close-ups and silent lingering shots allows Ejiofor to deliver the performance of a lifetime. This true story is remarkable and must not be ignored, conveyed with such beauty and passion the film is a must-see. That being said, be warned it is not for the faint hearted.