In 1841, Solomon Northup – a husband, father, violinist and a free black man living in upstate New York – is abducted and sold into slavery. On what he thinks is a music opportunity, he is drugged and thus dissolved into the world of slavery. His life, from one of freedom, becomes ruled by whoever is his master at the time. In this pre-Civil War America, Solomon finds himself desperately trying to grasp onto whatever semblance of dignity he can before being released after 12 long, brutal years.
The film, based on the first scholarly edition of the real Solomon Northup’s memoir – which gives it an incredible amount of accuracy and truth – stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon, who has also been nominated at this year’s Academy Awards for Best Actor. This will either be the best role of his career, since “Othello” in 2008, or will set him up for more work that allows for his brilliant skills. The film also stars Michael Fassbender (best known for his role as Magneto in “X-Men: First Class”, Paul Giamatti (his role in “Cinderella Man” being one of his most known), and Brad Pitt.
This is the third feature directed by Steve McQueen and written by John Ridley. The film is also one of the main contenders at this year’s Oscars, receiving nine nominations in all; including Best Picture, Best Director (Steve McQueen), Best Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Best Supporting Actor (Michael Fassbender) and Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong'o).
The film was shot on location in New Orleans, Louisiana with some locations being in close vicinity with the actual places that Solomon was kept as a slave. “12 Years a Slave” is being called an essential film in historic cinema for its storytelling of a gruelling and painful journey of a man who withstood all odds to get back his freedom. It might not be the easiest film to sit through, but it’s definitely worth it.