In 1841 freeman Solomon Northrup is kidnapped from Washington, given a new identity and sold into the south as a slave.
Director Steve McQueen has planted himself among the great contemporary film directors. He weaves the horrendous true-life-tale of Solomon Northrup’s forced enslavement with equal amounts of delicacy and brutality as the story demands. With the compassion of Roots and the violence of The Passion of the Christ it rises higher than the sum of the two. This is a story from the slaves point of view, where we see the extent that the less than animal-like treatment of the slaves has on the human psyche. Though it is not comfortable viewing neither is the recounting of Northrup’s story.
Chiwetel Ejiofor plays free man Solomon Northrup with an aching stoicism. He conveys both the struggles to find ways to return to his life and the heartbreak at being frustrated in the same direction with only subtle changes of his facial expression. On the other hand acting opposite him Adepero Oduye and Lupita Nyong’o (Eliza and Patsey) are equally heart breaking while being emotionally unrestrained.
The rest of the cast, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt and Paul Dano represent the different types of attitudes to slavery that existed at the time. They have a wonderfully refined screenplay to deal with thanks to John Ridley. But it is Michael Fassbender who really proves here that he is an actor as opposed to a movie star. With each role Fassbender obliterates any trace of his previous roles and creates a new and memorable character. He deserves all the recent nominations he has been given and more
12 Years A Slave is in Irish Cinemas now.