2013 / Director. Steve McQueen.
Review by Glenn Cochrane. (Minor Spoiler)
A lot of films have been made about black slavery in America but few have dared to depict the cruelty in such an honest and confronting way as 12 YEARS A SLAVE. The film tells the true story of Solomon Northup, a well respected black man living freely with his family, who is abducted and sold into slavery. Living the next 12 years in the barbaric hands of several slave owners he is subjected to human depravity of the most heinous nature. One can only imagine the atrocities committed against black people through slavery (and beyond) but this film brilliantly extracts the ugliest things your mind could conjure and puts it all on the screen like a punch to the face. In my mind, when it comes to this subject, this is the greatest films ever made. Not only is the violent imagery confronting but the performances are exceptional. Chiwetel Ejiofor is incredible in the lead and he commits every ounce of his being into this role. His face has a thousand expressions and he conveys so much emotion with just the slightest movements. The support cast is about as strong as you'll find, and brave too, with some of the most racist and vile characters you are likely to encounter. Michael Fastbender, Paul Giamatti and Sarah Paulson deliver particularly courageous performances and ought to be commended. 12 YEARS A SLAVE is a tough watch but it's a valuable one. In today's day and age most of us are all schooled on our past wrongs but every now and then we need to be reminded where we've been and how far we've come... or perhaps how much further we've got to go. In a powerful, yet fleeting, moment Solomon's character breaks through the fourth wall and looks the viewer in the eye... he makes a connection with us that really resonates and emphasises the sentiment of the film. It forces us to reflect on our own conduct and question how we treat others. Director Steve McQueen has tackled this story brilliantly and being British he shows that sometimes the most powerful stories about a place are told from an outsider's perspective. I doubt that an American filmmaker could have made this film.