While Steve McQueen’s films have all been beautifully filmed movies, I have felt very disconnected to his previous efforts Hunger and Shame. With his new film fresh off a win for Best Picture at the Oscars, he has finally won me over.
12 Years a Slave is the true story of Solomon Northrup, a free black man in the pre-Civil War United States. When Solomon is tricked, abducted and sold into slavery he is passed between a variety of owners over the course of 12 long years as he retains hope that he will once again be reunited with his wife and children.
Black men, women and children being taken and sold into slavery was common during the turbulent mid-1800’s but the fact that Northrup actually regained his freedom is what makes his story so unique and incredible. The story is a heartwrenching and unfathomable one and I was instantly enraged by the actions of ‘polite society’ depicted in the film. Slavery has always stood alongside Nazi’s and serial killers as things that I just cannot wrap my mind around. It just seems to be such an obviously wrong way of thinking that I can’t grasp what wiring is wrong in a person’s mind to think it was okay to treat other human beings in such a way. To this day that way of thinking is still unfortunately prevalent in society and it astounds and sickens me. But what McQueen has crafted here, and what the original story accomplishes, is the story of a man in the most unfortunate situation imaginable and how his intelligence, hope and love keep him going and striving for his own freedom to be returned to him.
McQueen filmed the story gorgeously and lushly. His style here really reminds me of Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford and Terrance Malick in his beautifully framed shots amidst such horror. And the acting here just does not get better. Lupita Nyong’o rightfully won an Oscar for her performance but every performance alongside hers deserves similar accolades. Chiwetel Ejiofor is just a revelation as Northrup. His facial expressions tell a million tales; his emotional range put into the performance is just out of this world. The rest of the supporting cast including a despicable Paul Giamatti, a wretched Michael Fassbender and a hopeful but ultimately flawed Benedict Cumberbatch are all first rate. 12 Years a Slave is a stunning masterwork worthy of the praise being heaped upon it.
The Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is like a painting in motion. Rich colors permeate the crystal clear and razor sharp transfer for a pretty much flawless presentation. Don’t write this one off as a film coasting on Oscar hype, 12 Years a Slave is a brilliant film worth seeing for more reasons than I can count. Very highly recommended.
Available now on Blu-ray and DVD.