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12 Years A Slave



When something affects you deeply, a common response is speechlessness. On other occasions, what affects you also offers the terms to describe it perfectly. Steven McQueen’s third feature is profound, distressing, powerful and deeply moving. It is a sublime film, in that it expresses its meaning exquisitely and unflinchingly through the cinematic medium. At no point does it preach nor sensationalise or sentimentalise its subject matter, choosing subtlety and intimacy over spectacle and scale. Its characters are recognisably human, from the enslaved Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to the moderate Mr Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) and the loathsome Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). McQueen uses flashbacks and flash forwards, extreme close-ups and his signature long takes to present his subject matter with an extraordinary nous about how much to show and how much to omit. It is the second film to ever make me cry (the first being Captain Phillips), but the first to make me cry twice, with anguish, sorrow and profound empathy. It could be flippantly compared to Django Unchained, but the film it reminds me of most is, perhaps surprisingly, The Shawshank Redemption, one of the best loved films of all time. I hope 12 Years A Slave acquires a similar legacy. See it.



  1. […] crying was not nothing something I did at films, but since Captain Phillips, I have shed tears at 12 Years A Slave and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and now The Fault in Our Stars. I have no shame in this, indeed I […]

  2. […] 12 Years A Slave (release date 10 January […]

  3. […] Original Screenplay places Spotlight in a weird category of being a numerically low Best Picture. 12 Years A Slave, Argo and Crash are Best Picture winners that received only three awards (all won Screenplay, […]

  4. […] of the drama, much like McQueen’s previous work that explored sexuality, political prisoners and slavery. Where Widows fumbles slightly is that McQueen’s searing focus, exquisitely captured by regular […]

  5. […] recognised. Green Book casts an eye over American racial history, much like Driving Miss Daisy, 12 Years A Slave and Hidden Figures, and once I’ve seen it I’ll let you know what I […]

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