Film Review: 12 Years A Slave

It’s Oscar season, which means there are finally some decent films about, and 12 Years A Slave is certainly one of them.

I’m not usually one for the film reviews. Everything there is to say has probably already been said by bespectacled tweed-jacket wearing critics who’ll confidently tell you all about the functional marriage of form and content, stopping only to pluck a few random film facts out of their illustrious beards before reciting an essay on camera angles. I don’t know about camera angles. But I do know one thing. 12 Years A Slave is a must-see. Really. You MUST see it.

Shortly after its world premiere last year, 12 Years A Slave was described as the best film that has yet been made about American slavery. Last week the picture was nominated for 10 Baftas. On Sunday it picked up Best Film at the Golden Globes. And there’s plenty of talk of Oscars to follow. The critics love it. The audiences are loving it. It’s great.

Steve McQueen’s subject is unabolished and unchallenged slavery, told through Solomon Northup’s 1853 memoir.

A black man born free in New York, Solomon, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, is subsequently tricked, drugged and kidnapped to be sold into slavery in the south.

Solomon is first purchased by Sherlock’s plantation owner, Ford, but alas he runs into some issues with a weaselly overseer and ends up as the property of sadistic slavemaster Epps, aka Michael Fassbender.

Lupita Nyong’o stars alonside Ejiofor as the heroic and defiant Patsey, a girl with whom Epps is totally obsessed, leading to the most shockingly violent part of the entire film where Solomon is instructed to flog the girl until her back is “nothing but meat and blood.”

It’s madness, the whole thing. And this is a film to convince you of it. The entire cinema was silent. I think a few people stopped breathing.

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The brutality of the film makes several scenes almost unwatchable, and that’s coming from someone who lists all 183 Saw films amongst their all time favourites. So be prepared.

The film closes with the news that none of Solomon’s captors were ever brought to justice. And then the cinema emptied, in total silence.

The Verdict: Devastating, shocking and yet utterly brilliant. A MUST-see.

10/10

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