In 1841, Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) has a very happy life in Saratoga, New York. He loves music and playing his violin. But more than this he adores his beautiful wife Anne (by Kelsey Scott) and his children Michelle (by Quvenzhané Wallis) and Alonzo (by Cameron Zeigler). They live a very comfortable and successful life, with well-balanced settled children and a blissful marriage. One day, Solomon is befriended by two tricksters and ends up being transported into slavery in the American south. He endures the humiliation of being sold by a heartless and greedy Slaver, Mr Freeman (by Paul Giamatti), then relentless horror as the “purchased property” of several brutal landowners and their staff, including Ford (by Benedict Cummerbatch), Tibeat (by Paul Danos) and Epps (by Michael Fassbender). For twelve years he and his fellow slaves suffer at the utterly cruel and hateful hands of their “masters”, which bears heavily on them all, until a Canadian abolitionist, Bass (by Brad Pitt) provides Solomon with a chance of freedom.
This jaw-dropping movie is based on the biography “Twelve Years a Slave” by Solomon Northrup. The unwavering hateful attitudes of the “owners” towards their “property” is eye boggling, as is the total brutality meted out to them daily as a result of their “he’s my property, I can do what I like to him” point of view. As Solomon Northup, Chiwetel Ejiofor puts in a remarkable performance and his worldwide nominations as Best Actor are totally deserved. Another stunning performance is from Michael Fassbender, as Landowner Epps. He must have been totally exhausted throughout the making of the movie as every one of his scenes is aggressive, physical, emotionally fraught and must have been utterly draining. As Freeman, Paul Giamatti’s role is small but very important and he is marvellous. Same goes for Paul Danos and Brad Pitt – very good. Another wonderful performance is by Lupita Nyong’o as slave Patsey. She is strong, fearless and incredible – she well deserves her Screen Actors Guild Award and her nomination for an Academy Award (Oscar). The movie has already been recognised with 2014 Best Movie Golden Globe, BAFTA and AFI Awards and it has been nominated for several Academy Awards (Oscars) for Best Picture, Actor in Leading Role (Ejiofor), Actor in Supporting Role (Fassbender), Actress in Supporting Role (Nyong’o), Costumes, Directing, Film Editing, Production Design and Writing (Adapted Screenplay). It’s probably a little too drawn-out in the telling so it seems long, but its honesty is to be seen to be believed. Well done.
Made in 2013. Directed by Steve McQueen