HIFF Review: ‘12 Years a Slave’ Is Oscar Contender

Come award season, folks will be torn between the prestige Oscar-bait (12 Years a Slave) film and the rousing technical and narrative achievement (Gravity).

12 Years A Slave is perhaps one of the most brilliant films ever to come out of Fox Searchlight. It’s certainly Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company’s finest work to date. Chiwetel Ejiofor, a treat in every film he’s ever participated in, is absolutely brilliant, turning in a tour du force performance that rivals the likes of Brando or Olivier. With outstanding supporting performances from literally every actor in the piece, Steve McQueen’s slavery epic is beautifully shot and wrought with tension.

When musically-gifted New Yorker Solomon Northup is kidnapped by two con men and sold into slavery, he spends over a decade changing hands as a piece of property in the South, surviving and dreaming of the day he can return to his wife and children in Saratoga. A heartbreaking account of man’s inhumanity to man, 12 Years a Slave is an unflinching look at the ugliness and brutality of the slave trade, as well as of slavery in general.

While I’d love to see Gravity take home the lion’s share of gold come awards season, that 12 Years A Slave is the clear prestige piece this year. 2013 has certainly been a brilliant year for motion pictures and incredible performances top to bottom. It’ll be hard beating Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender for the top male acting awards this year. Experience 12 Years a Slave when it opens in wide release.

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