12 Years a Slave is the film adaptation of the book of the same name. The memoir of Solomon Northop published in 1853, an American black man who lived as a free man until he is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen presents this first account story to the audience with overwhelming honesty.
McQueen provides a masterclass in Directing, the measure of intensity is powerfully magnified by holding long close shots that urges an inner response from the viewer. In his portrayal of extreme brutality, McQueen displays exceptional talent in getting this from the actors. Visually this film is outstanding, each frame seems soaked with emotion. On top of this, binding each scene together is an unnerving soundscore that carries through the whole film created by Hans Zimmer.
A quick scan down the list of the cast gives the viewer an idea of the quality. However, nothing prepares you for amazing individual performances. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Solomon Northop, he is outstanding and transforms through the film as he gives in to his situation. Lupita Nyong'o is incredible playing the slave girl Patsey, who endures a horrendous whipping in one unwatchable scene. Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch and Brad Pitt all give powerful performances. But it is Michael Fassbender who really stands out in this film. Playing a sometimes psychotic plantation owner, he captures this horrific character so well that the performance will stay with you long after you have watched the film.
Many of the scenes are overwhelmingly uncomfortable to watch but need to be true to the story. 12 Years a Slave is a brutal account of the personal experiences of a man who lived this. Kidnappings of this kind were very common in this period of history, but most of them would not survive.
It's fair to say that 12 Years a Slave is not an easy experience, this is a harsh journey of a film. But is exceptionally told, just an amazing piece of cinematic storytelling. The bottom line is, you would be hard to find a better piece of movie-making anywhere.