12 Years a Slave is a true story based on Solomon Northup whom was a free man but he was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841. This film displays the struggles and his accounts during his twelve years serving as a slave. The director, Steve McQueen has a sweet tooth f or difficult subject matter. His two previous films, Hunger (2008) and Shame (2011), dealt with the hunger strike in an Irish prison and a man with sexual addiction. McQueen’s latest film depicts the cruelty that some slaves had to endure in the 1800’s.
12 Years a Slave is among some of my favorite films this year. It is hard to find anything wrong with this film. Chiwetel Ejiofor (2012, American Gangster) had the leading role of Solomon and was supported by an all star cast. Ejiofor was perfect for this role and I am glad he was able to shine. He made the audience feel sympathy towards his character. It complemented well with his unruly plantation owner, Edwin Epps, played by the wonderful Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class, Shame, Hunger). Fassbender brought such intensity that it makes you hate him but feel sorrow simultaneously. Edwin was an evil man that had an equally horrific wife, Mistress Epps, played by Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story). They were a couple from hell and both served as wonderful antagonists in this film.
There were many other actors who had smaller roles that all worth mentioning. They all contributed to making this film one of the best this year. I’ll name the actors and their roles and know that they all did a great job as their characters. Scoot McNairy (Monsters, Killing them Softly) and Taran Killam (Saturday Night Live) played the two gentlemen who tricked Northup and kidnapped him. Paul Giamatti (The Ides of March, The Hangover Part II) is a slave trader who sold Solomon to his first plantation owner who was played by Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek Into Darkness, Sherlock). Paul Dano’s (Prisoners, Looper) character is a worker that gave Solomon trouble. Brad Pitt probably had the smallest role of them all who is a contractor that was hired by Epps. Finally, I have to give praise to a new actress, Lupita Nyong'o, in her role as a slave girl that is known to be Epps’ favorite.
12 Years a Slave was extraordinary in every way possible. It had beautiful cinematography including sweeping landscapes of Louisiana and long shots depicting torture and cruelty. McQueen and cinematographer, Sean Bobbitt (The Place Beyond the Pines, Shame) have collaborated in the past and they seem to work extremely well together when composing stunning long shot sequences. The musical score complemented the film which was composed by Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight, Man of Steel). The film had a very beautiful theme to it but sounded a little too similar to another score he composed from Inception.
Steve McQueen is an artistic director that is not afraid to capture difficult subject matter. 12 Year a Slave is a masterpiece in my eyes in every way possible. This will definitely be up for Oscars this award season and not one to miss in the theaters. I highly recommend this film to anyone but make sure to leave the kids at home.
5/5 - Masterpiece.