Award-winning slavery biopic ‘unforgettable’

Elliot Baker

Film review


An all-star cast heads up this British – American biopic about the brutality and injustice of slavery, and with unforgettable performances and a shocking true story, this is an unforgettable story, and an instant classic.

Solomon Northup is a black free man living in New York in the 1840’s, he has a young family and a paying job, until he is deceived by a pair of fraudulent tricksters, and soon finds himself a captive slave to be sold to the highest bidder, being firstly the kindly William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) and latterly Edwin Epps (the magnificent Michael Fassbender). So can Northup use his intellect to free himself, or will he only find himself further from home?

Chiwetel Ejiofor is both charming and elegant as Northup, he works hard not to overplay the role, and there are moments where his performance elevates the film above its potential. The remainder of the cast includes the likes of Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch and Paul Giammatti, but none can match the fantastic Fassbender as the troubled and psychotic slave owner Epps; his ferocious and terrifying portrayal creates some moments of unbelievable dramatic tension, and his interplay with Ejiofor is truly something to behold.

English Director Steve McQueen has created a painful, yet ultimately beautiful film, through his ruthlessness and ambition as well as his ability to trouble and disconcert his audience, he has become the go to director for films whose subject matter are often unspoken, and in some cases unspeakable. This is an excellent film, its relentless cynicism and awkwardly un rose-tinted retrospective means this is no easy watch, however this is clearly the point, as McQueen once again shows us how imperfect we all really are.

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