’12 Years a Slave’
Steve McQueen’s previous two features, 2008’s Hunger and 2011’s Shame, were both intimate, character studies which focused on the connection between the physical and the psychological. In his latest, the surprisingly lengthily-titled 12 Years a Slave, he appears to be ditching the concentrated nature of those films for a more sprawling historical tale of slavery and humanity, with an epic cast and a clear moral message. …Slave focuses on the true-life tale of Solomon Northup, an African-American man born free in 19th century New York City, who was kidnapped in 1841 in Washington DC and sold to slavery on a plantation in Louisana. He was (spoiler for real-life!) rescued in 1853, after nearly 12 years working on the plantation.
McQueen’s previous work demonstrated his background as a video artist, challenging his viewers with lingering, drawn-out scenes of depravation and bodily extremes. Going by this trailer, he seems to be going for a more straightforward history lesson, with Chiwetel Ejiofor (finally breaking out into a leading role) portraying Northup’s nobility, courage and intensity. McQueen populates the rest of the film with a stellar cast (most of whom are good-looking actors who are not at all plagued with white-guilt…) including – Paul Dano, Michael Fassbender (his third feature with McQueen), Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Brad Pitt, Sarah Paulson and Scoot McNairy.
Twelve Years a Slave also marks the sophomore feature of Beasts of the Southern Wild starlet Quvenzhané Wallis as the daughter of Northup, hopefully delivering upon the promising success of her debut. It will be released in the US in October, in time for Oscar season – with a scheduled UK release on January 24th 2014.