After moving up to a mid-October release, we were sure to soon receive a preview for 12 Years a Slave, the third feature by Hunger and Shame helmer Steve McQueen. At long last, it’s here: with a central turn from Chiwetel Ejiofor, his next film tells the story of freeman-turned-slave, Solomon Northup, whose 12-year-long experience on plantations and in the fields was turned into an indelible personal account of America’s most shameful enterprise — now, a movie is here for the fall awards season.
That lattermost factor breeds a certain concern. While McQueen‘s other work has taken potentially conventional dramatic devices — i.e., a hunger strike, followed by sexual addiction — and communicated their effects through rigorous formal practice, what’s sold, here, is not in the spirit of those titles, instead feeling more attuned to the likes of… well, name the bait for yourself. With any luck, Slave is less the generic preview — accompanied by Ejiofor‘s early Oscar clip, along with an unnecessary predominance of cameo-maker Brad Pitt — and more a well-stocked (Fassbender! Cumberbatch! Paulson! Dano?), appropriately blistering examination of human cruelty. Such hopes should not be dashed right away.
Watch the preview below (via Apple):
12 YEARS A SLAVE is based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender) as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) forever alters his life.
After premiering on the fall festival circuit, 12 Years a Slave will enter limited release on October 18. The film also stars Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard, Garret Dillahunt, Lupita Nyong’o, Adepero Oduye, Scoot McNairy, Michael K. Williams, Chris Chalk, Quvenzhané Wallis.
Do you find yourself taken with what’s on display? How does it, at first, seem to shape up against McQueen’s other work?
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