Based on the autobiography of the same name by Solomon Northup and adapted by John Ridley, 12 Years A Slave is a masterpiece.
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.
Solomon’s first master, Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), is kind but fate delivers the lead character to sadistic Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). Epps takes a shine to one of the slave girls, Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o), to the chagrin of his unfeeling wife (Sarah Paulson).
Solomon is caught in the crossfire, finding a means to orchestrate escape with the help of an abolitionist called Bass (Brad Pitt), who also believes that “slavery is an evil that should befall none”.
12 Years A Slave is the deserved frontrunner for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars and it would be impossible to deny McQueen’s film an entire mantelpiece of gold statuettes.
Ejiofor breaks our hearts as an honest, decent man, who retains his humanity in the face of unspeakable cruelty. Nyong’o is equally eye-catching in her big screen debut while Fassbender simmers with rage and self-loathing.
McQueen’s directorial brio comes to the fore, memorably in a horrific whipping sequence shot in a single take.
It is on the Hollywood Plaza, Scarborough, from Friday February 7.