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Twelve Years A Slave draws rave reviews from Telluride

12 Years A Slave

Story by Jack Foley

STEVE McQueen has scored another hit at the Telluride Film Festival with his third film, Twelve Years A Slave.

The British director has debuted both of his previous films, Hunger and Shame, at the Colorado event.

And he chose the venue again to launch his laatest, a hard-hitting drama based on the true story of a free black man, Solomon Northrup, from the north who was deceived and sold into slavery in the south in mid-19th Century America.

The film reunites McQueen with Michael Fassbender but also stars Chiwetel Ejiofor in the lead role – and most critics zeroed in on the British actor’s performance as a surefire Oscar contender.

Brad Pitt is among the starry ensemble (he also serves as a producer) as is Kenyan newcomer Lupita Nyong’o, seasoned pro Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch and Alfre Woodard.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film was greeted with “thunderous applause” during its end credits and then got a standing ovation once McQueen and the film’s principal stars took to the stage for a Q&A.

Commenting on the film, The Hollywood Reporter wrote: “Twelve Years is an extremely dark and disturbing work that will almost certainly resonate more with critics than the general public. But unlike those earlier two films, which received a grand total of zero Oscar nominations, this one, because of its larger historical canvas and the magnificent performances from its giant ensemble cast, will almost certainly resonate more with the Academy.”

Their critic has gone so far as to predict Oscar nods for “best picture, best director (McQueen), best actor (Ejiofor, for his total commitment in every scene of the film), best supporting actor (Fassbender, for playing a brutal Southern slave owner), best supporting actress (N’yongo, for portraying a slave who endures heartbreaking brutality), best adapted screenplay (for John Ridley’s take on Solomon Northup’s 1853 autobiography of the same title) and best original score (Hans Zimmer)”.

He also notes that “a year after similar subject matter was presented with humor in the best picture-nominated Django Unchained, it is being treated with the utmost realism and seriousness in these films”.

Variety, meanwhile, stated: “This epic account of an unbreakable soul makes even Scarlett O’Hara’s struggles seem petty by comparison.”

It also drew comparisons with Tarantino’s Western, writing: “If Django Unchained opened the door, then “12 Years a Slave” goes barreling through it, tackling its subject with utmost seriousness. The film opens in a world where slavery is a fact of life and Northrup has no recourse to challenge his captivity.”

Of the performances, it praises Ejiofor the most, saying: “Though the film brims with memorable characters, the show ultimately belongs to Ejiofor, who upholds the character’s dignity throughout.”

But the reviewer credits Fassbender’s transformation as possibly his “most courageous yet, tapping into a place of righteous superiority that reminds just how scary such racism can be”.

And on a wider context, it also praised the film for its ability to be taken seriously and to teach future generations about slavery, noting: “Though arguably too harsh for young eyes, 12 Years A Slave will serve as an important teaching tool, giving audiences who’ve never witnessed the dynamics of slavery an impression of how the system worked.”

Twelve Years A Slave is currently due to open in UK cinemas on Friday, January 24, 2014.

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