For his third feature, Steve McQueen considers the slave trade from the perspective of a free black man, who was kidnapped in 1841 and suffered 12 years of abuse on the plantations of Louisiana before he was reunited with his loving family.
Based on the autobiography of the same name by Solomon Northup and adapted for the screen by John Ridley, 12 Years A Slave is a masterpiece that sears into the retina with every artfully composed frame.
Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor) lives with his wife Anne (Kelsey Scott), daughter Margaret (Quvenzhane Wallis) and son Alonzo (Cameron Zeigler). An encounter with two seemingly respectable gentlemen - Messrs Brown (Scoot McNairy) and Hamilton (Taran Killam) - changes Solomon’s life forever.
He wakes up in chains and learns he has been sold into slavery.
Theophilus Freeman (Paul Giamatti) takes delivery of Solomon and ignores pleas for leniency, snarling, “My sentimentality stretches the length of a coin”.
Solomon’s first master, Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), is kind but fate delivers the lead character to sadistic Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender).