Directed by Steve McQueen
Screenplay by John Ridley
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Sarah Paulson, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano
As a free black man living in upstate New York, Solomon Northup and his family lived in relative comfort. When he’s enticed to pursue a job opportunity, Northup is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Over the next twelve years Solomon is subjected to the horrors of slavery, but he never loses hope. Throughout it all, he’s looking for a way to get back home.
Director Steve McQueen (Hunger) is no stranger to tough subjects. His previous work never looked away in the tough moments and this film is no exception. The story comes from the novel written by Solomon Northup, about his experiences. Writer John Ridley (Red Tails) adapted the story for the screen. McQueen and Ridley got together to make this film after McQueen’s wife suggested he head Northup’s book. He described the book as “like Anne Frank’s diary but written 97 years before — a firsthand account of slavery.”
This movie features an incredible cast of familiar and unfamiliar faces. Chiwetel Ejiofor (American Gangster) does an incredible job as Solomon Northup. His emotional performance is likely to earn some major recognition this award season. The film also features Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class), Lupita Nyong’o (Non-Stop), Benedict Cumberbatch (War Horse), Brad Pitt (Moneyball), Sarah Paulson (Mud), Paul Dano (Looper), and Paul Giamatti (The Ides of March). Each of these actors does an excellent job with their parts. Michael Fassbender is especially impressive in a very dark and emotional role. Newcomer Lupita Nyong’o is also incredible in one of the more powerful roles in the film.
Steve McQueen and John Ridley put together an incredible story. There is no sense of predictability or inevitability at any point. The action is put together nicely with very thoughtful dialogue. Like the visuals, the dialogue in the film doesn’t try to hold back. This is rough to watch, but adds to the intense nature of the story.
The camera work, set design, and locations all feel perfectly chosen. The violence and brutality of slavery are clearly shown, but nothing is gratuitous or overdone. I believe that the subject of slavery is an important part of American history, and it was treated as such in this film. Despite the violent moments, the film provides the victims of slavery with a dignified portrayal.
This is an amazing film. I think it’s a movie that should be shown to students studying the slavery era in America. Like Glory, the story has value as much more than just entertainment. I would recommend this to anyone who loves history. This would also be a good film for fans of movies like Lincoln or Schindler’s List. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.