HISTORY ALIGHT: Ejiofore, in character as Solomon Northup, the film's inspiring hero.
Whatever your long-held views on the concept of slavery and oppression, humanity and dignity, 12 Years A Slave examines these polarizing themes with considerable verve and a gifted director's unique voice. Throughout this deeply affecting film, you experience anger, apprehension, and shock, but also a profound sense of hope for a fittingly positive resolution to Solomon Northup's incredible travails.
Directed with restraint and a compassionate eye by Steve McQueen (Shame, Hunger) and anchored by an award-calibre turn by Chiwetel Ejiofore (Kinky Boots), the film is rooted in the true-to-life experiences of Northup, a Black New York-born musician and family man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery at the height of the 19th century. As his 1853 memoir, adapted by screenwriter John Ridley, sets out, Northup ended up working on plantations across the swampy state of Louisiana for more than a decade until his chance encounter with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) sets in motion the circumstances that would culminate in his release from shackles and the confines of the cotton fields.
McQueen's film, though delivering occasional bits of poetry and beauty and regular shots of gorgeous Southern scenery, is often horrifying and downright infuriating in its depiction of the brutal treatment Northup and the other Blacks (women included) endured at the hands of callous "owners" like the one played by Michael Fassbender, a stark foil for the more human master played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who encourages Solomon to keep at his violin-playing.
In any case, 12 Years A Slave marks the electrifying film debut of the exciting 29-year-old Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong'o, who impressively commands the screen as slave girl Patsey, a free spirit who earns the ire of a scornful plantation madame portrayed by Sarah Catherine Paulson. The likes of Alfre Woodard, Adepero Oduye, Paul Dano and Paul Giamatti complete the accomplished auxiliary cast.
This week's nine Oscar nominations only serve to solidify the picture's ranking among the year's finest releases. An unforgettable account of race and resilience, pride and prejudice. Tyrone's Verdict: A