Reviewer Gavin Miller runs the rule over Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave...
This exceptional piece of cinema is undoubtedly worthy of anyone’s attention – even though it falls just shy of greatness.
Director Steve McQueen’s slavery drama joins the likes of American Hustle, Captain Phillips and Gravity as front-runners for this year’s Oscars.
It has lots of merits, principally terrific turns from Brit actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and big-screen newcomer Lupita Nyong’o, but their performances are slightly hindered by pacing issues and a dearth of major set-pieces and sub-plots that leaves you wanting more.
This ‘true story’ is based on Ejiofor’s ‘free’ black New York state citizen Solomon Northup who is kidnapped and sold into slavery to a New Orleans plantation, ran by cruel alcoholic owner Edwin Epps.
Through a methodical two hour-plus run-time we see Northup try and retain his dignity as hopes fade that he will return home – with Nyong’o’s champion Patsey battling even more severe abuse.
McQueen evokes some emotionally compelling (and sometimes uneasy viewing) scenes that helps give the film some truly hand-on-mouth moments that eases it through leaner, unevenly paced, spells.
A handful of cameos from Benedict Cumberbatch and Brad Pitt aid McQueen in his quest to weave a generally moving spectacle that definitely provokes reaction.