As Solomon Northup, an educated free man in New York hoodwinked into a trip South where he's enslaved, Chiwetel Ejiofor does once-in-a-lifetime work. His Northup isn't just a character or a depiction of a real man, he feels like a complete human being, complex and nuanced and filled with wellsprings of emotion.
While Ejiofor holds the whole thing together, 12 Years a Slave also boasts a murderers' row of actors lending support in all manner of supporting roles. The list includes Michael Fassbender, Adepero Oduye, Michael Kenneth Williams, Paul Giamatti, Quvenzhané Wallis, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfre Woodard, Lupita Nyong'o, Dwight Henry, Scoot McNairy, Garret Dillahunt, Sarah Paulson, Taran Killam, and more.
Check out the featurette, which even at seven-and-a-half-minutes barely scratches the surface of the acting on display in 12 Years a Slave.
The film is currently playing in just 410 locations across America, but even still has cracked the domestic top ten chart two weeks running. Despite playing a small fraction of the theaters, 12 Years a Slave is riding its acclaim to busy weekends and exceptionally strong per-theater averages. As such, Fox Searchlight's platform release will continue rolling out over the weeks to come. As the field of prestige movies gets more crowded, this one is only going to get stronger.
So if it's not yet playing at a theater near you, just hold tight. It's on the way.
Here's the official synopsis of the film's story, which is based on Northup's own true account of the years he spent in bondage:
12 YEARS A SLAVE is based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender) as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) forever alters his life.