TIFF 2013 Review: 12 Years a Slave
Sometimes the power of a drama can be judged by just how quickly and easily one rises from the seat as the credits roll. 12 Years a Slave will leave you stuck, floored, drained, and blown away. This perfectly-executed, impeccably-acted historical drama based on a true story tells of Solomon Northup, a husband, father, and freeman from the north, kidnapped and sold into the slavery in the south.
Director Steve McQueen wraps his hand around your heart and slowly squeezes; it is stunning, and truly unforgettable.
Chiwetel Ejiofor is Northup, an educated, sophisticated man thrown into a life of servitude and hardship, forced to compromise his ideals and intelligence and find a balance between living and simply surviving. Ejiofor is captivating as Northup, a broken man with pained eyes and crushed spirit.
Passed between owners (including Paul Giamatti and Benedict Cumberbatch), Northup watches as others are shot, lynched, raped – and even saved – all while he has been forgotten. McQueen does not let up – there is hateful language and vile images, as he forces the viewer to endure the horror, holding onto some shots seemingly interminably.
Northup ends up a slave of Edwin Epps (an impressive Michael Fassbender), a violent, deranged drunkard of a man who becomes obsessed with a young slave named Patsey, while wary of Northup. The time at the Epps farm is most tragic and harrowing, as McQueen continues to tighten his grip. Shocking, provocative, and powerful, it’s also one of the best films of the year.
Friday September 6 – Princess of Wales – 6:00 PM
Saturday September 7 – Ryerson Theatre – 11:30 AM
Saturday September 14 – Visa Screening Room (Elgin) – 9:00 PM