Review: ’12 Years A Slave’ (MA) ****

12-years-a-slaveFROM London-born director Steve McQueen comes a quasi-documentary dramatisation of Solomon Northup’s account of spending 12 years as a slave in America’s deep south.

In 1847, Solomon, free born in New York, with full US citizenship rights and a young family, was lured to Washington and kidnapped. McQueen and scriptwriter John Ridley have adapted his book with, if not complete verity, at least sufficient realism to show that the price in human misery that the US paid for the profits of slave-based agriculture will forever stain the country’s scutcheon.

London-born Chewitel Ejiofor convincingly delivers Solomon’s dignity, courage, intelligence and enduring optimism. London-born Benedict Cumberbatch plays slave-owner Ford whose compassion did not extend to refusing to sell Solomon to the brutal Epps (British actor Michael Fassbinder) for whom slaves were chattels to be dealt with as he saw fit, including putting to death. Quvenzhané Wallis, who made such an impression in “Beasts of The Southern Wild”, plays Solomon’s daughter before the kidnapping.

Not only white males despised black slaves. Sarah Paulson plays Mrs Epps, as nastily-cunning a jealous bitch as you might hope to avoid.

This review is heavy on the ethnic origins of the film’s main players for a reason. I suspect that casting Americans in those major roles might have stuck a little in the American public craw. Brad Pitt plays a northerner of conscience who unlocks the door to Solomon’s freedom as well as one of the film’s producers.

At Palace Electric, Dendy, Capitol 6, Hoyts Belconnen and Limelight

 

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