Film of the Day: 12 Years a Slave

12 Years A Slave - Chiwetel Ejiofor
A masterpiece in modern cinema, 12 Years a Slave simply defies criticism. Photo: Entertainment One

Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as the high-society violinist and musician Solomon Northup in 1841 New York who, after being promised an appealing business deal, is tricked, drugged and kidnapped by two white men to be sold into slavery.

On a slave plantation in the south, Benedict Cumberbatch’s William Ford owns him before he is sold to the unspeakably cruel Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). As year crawls onto year, Solomon is looking for hope in any place he can get it, and gradually makes a friendship with Patsey, played by Lupita Nyong’o.

In Steve McQueen’s triple-Oscar-winning film, the true story of Northup is brought achingly to life. We see a system of dehumanisation, exploitation and appalling abuse that, as the memoir shows, was in place but a handful of generations ago in American history.


12 Years a Slave – Tuesday at 11.25pm on Film4