12 Years a Slave (2013)

12 Years a Slave
Director: Steve McQueen
Writer: John Ridley
Based on: Solomon Northup‘s memoir
Cast: Chiwetel EjioforLupita Nyong’o, Quvenzhané Wallis, Kelsey Scott, Michael K. Williams, Scoot McNairy, Adepero Oduye, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodard, Brad Pitt

Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is one of the few free black people in the USA. Or rather he used to be until he took a job offer that turned into a kidnapping. Suddenly Solomon finds himself removed from his family, mistreated and enslaved. As he goes from owner to owner, he tries his best to not only survive, but be free again.

12 Years a Slave is one hell of a film. It has a great cast, is beautifully shot and has an awesome soundtrack. It’s also a film that hurts pretty much all over and will stay with me for a very long time.


As puzzledpeaces put it, 12 Years a Slave is the kind of film you wish wasn’t as good as it is. Because it grips your heart in a vise and doesn’t let go and then you sit there and cry about everything. And that wouldn’t happen if it was actually a bad film. But of course it’s absolutely necessary that a film like this is good and has the (emotional) impact it has.

Steve McQueen absolutely delivers on all counts. Not only does he wrangle the last bit of emotion from you (without ever being cheaply manipulative), but his film is a layered, engaging, complex statement about slavery and cruelty, and one that was long overdue to be made, at least on this scale. That it’s based on a true story only makes the film harder to dismiss (even if some people tried anyway missing the point so hard it’s not even funny anymore). [This take on the historical accuracy is much better.]


Of course McQueen didn’t make this film on his own. He did find the perfect cast to with though: Chiwetel Eijofor whose face can show more variation in his expressions than should be humanly possible. Lupita Nyong’o who is a one woman power package and steals every scene she’s in. Michael Fassbender who is so incredibly evil without ever stumbling into caricature territory or making his character seem any less real. And Sarah Paulson who quietly shines in everything she does. To name but a few.

And you have this harrowing account of awful events shown in the most beautiful images and with the most wonderful soundtrack and this juxtaposition only makes things harder to stomach. But that just makes it more relevant.


Summarizing: Steve McQueen, fucking genius.

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