“12 Years a Slave” is from director Steve McQueen (“Shame”), telling the true story of Solomon Northrup, a black man born free in New York who was abducted in 1841 and sold into slavery. His memoir went on to become a best-seller at the time, but was mostly lost to obscurity for almost a century until it was rediscovered in the 1960s, when an extensive historical research project collaborated much of his horrific tale.
The film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor (“2012,” “Salt”) as Solomon and he is surrounded by an incredibly talented cast that is one of the better ensembles I’ve seen this year. McQueen, who burst onto the landscape last year with his sexually-charged film “Shame,” presents Solomon’s story with a minimum of directorial tricks, allowing both the humanity of his characters and the inhumanity of their situations to shine through. This is a story that has no need for embellishments and the presentation is all the more powerful because of its simplicity.
This is not an easy movie to watch, and the fact that it is based on a real events makes it all the more harrowing and tragic.
The movie is rated R for violence/cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality.