At this point — after 12 Years a Slave wowed audiences and critics at the Toronto Film Festival and some Oscar handicappers have pronounced the Best Picture race all but over — it does Steve McQueen’s film no good to pile on additional adulation, which will only raise expectations even higher. Put simply: Based on the 1853 memoir of Solomon Northup, a New York man (Chiwetel Ejiofor) kidnapped and smuggled into Southern slavery, 12 Years is a powerful viewing experience that not only demonstrates the brutality of American slavery like no other Hollywood movie before, but also presents a panorama of the moral tapestry of Southern culture before the Civil War.
Northup was a free man — a talented musician with a wife and children in Saratoga, N.Y. — when two charlatans lured him to Washington, D.C. with the promise of a well-paying series of circus concerts. McQueen has said that Northup’s nightmare reminded him of Pinocchio, and in this exclusive clip from the movie, Scoot McNairy and Taran Killam are practically Honest John and Gideon come to life.
12 Years a Slave, which also stars Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, and Alfre Woodard, opens today in six cities. It expands to six more cities next week before opening nationwide on Nov. 1.
Here’s the film’s trailer: