In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.
Well, this is a bloody tough watch. The film features some of the hardest scenes I’ve ever had to watch, but they only add to what is an immensely powerful story of a free man captured and sold into slavery. That man is Soloman Northup, who is portrayed magnificently by Chiwetel Ejiofor, an actor who I’ve long enjoyed on the small screen, who is now showing his talents for a bigger audience. He is excellent, but the strongest performance for me comes from Michael Fassbender as the second plantation owner, Edwin Epps, an insecure alcoholic man with a vicious streak. Epps is one of the worst people I’ve seen captured on film, and Fassbender is terrific at portraying him. The rest of the supporting cast is filled out with solid actors such as Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson, Paul Giamatti and newcomer Lupita Nyongo’o, in a heartbreaking performance as a young female slave who Epps takes a dangerous liking too.
My one slight criticism is Brad Pitt’s role, which felt like a piece of stunt casting (I’d imagine due to Pitt’s role as producer) – he isn’t bad, but a smaller character actor could have played the part without being as distracting. The film does have moments where it feels a little slow, but this helps to show the passing of time, and the despair of Northup and his fellow slaves situation. Recent films such as ‘Lincoln’ and ‘Django Unchained’ have taken a different approach to portraying slavery, but this is the hardest hitting tale, a spirited film about fighting for a better future no matter what, and the first truly excellent film of 2014.
Directed By: Steve McQueen
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodard and Brad Pitt