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Accenture Gala

12 Years a Slave

Steve McQueen confirms his directorial prowess with this hugely important and beautifully cinematic account of slavery in pre-Civil War America.

12 Years a Slave

  • Director Steve McQueen
  • Producers Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Bill Pohlad, Steve McQueen, Arnon Milchan, Anthony Katagas
  • Screenwriter John Ridley
  • With Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt
  • USA 2013
  • 133 mins
  • UK distribution Entertainment One UK

Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame) confirms his directorial prowess with a film of momentous importance and expanded cinematic scope in which he tackles head-on the long-untouchable subject of slavery. Solomon (an extraordinary performance from Chiwetel Ejiofor) is an accomplished violinist living as a free man in New York who is conned into joining a travelling show then brutally abducted and sold as a slave. When his comparatively benevolent first owner Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) sells him to abusive, demented plantation boss Epps (Michael Fassbender), any chance to prove the illegitimacy of his situation seems lost. As Epps spirals into madness, Solomon and his fellow slaves are subjected to escalating bouts of violence and their struggle to maintain dignity becomes increasingly desperate. Based on Solomon Northup’s confronting memoir, 12 Years a Slave plays out on Louisiana plantations prior to the American Civil War, a potent historical context for McQueen to continue exploring themes of physical deprivation, self-loathing and the absence of choice. This unrelenting, indelible work of cinema is timely as both an expansion of, and antidote to, the very different ventures of Tarantino’s Django Unchained and Spielberg’s Lincoln. Featuring stellar cinematography and editing from McQueen’s regular collaborators Sean Bobbitt and Joe Walker, and a resounding score from Hans Zimmer.

Clare Stewart

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