Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave made a huge splash this past week at the Telluride Film Festival. The film is reportedly very intense and emotional, so much so that the audience, which included cast members like Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt, were taken aback by the film. Telluride has been known to catapult Oscar hopefuls to glory. It was last year at this time that Ben Affleck's Argo also stunned at the festival.
'Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, anchored by brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor, is a slavery movie for the ages' read the headline of Eric Kohn's A-plus review for Indiewire. The piece is very enthusiastic, with Kohn writing that "Ejiofor is a lock for Best Performance in the Oscar race, as is McQueen and his movie."
Kohn's sentiments were echoed both by the audience response to the film's debut screening (The Hollywood Reporter described the applause as 'thunderous'!) and awards pundits. Oscar expert Scott Feinberg wrote that 12 Years A Slave should not only factor in the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor race, but also in the supporting categories, where Michael Fassbender (as a slave owner) and newcomer Lupita Nyong'o stand good chances.
Based on the memoir by Solomon Northup, the film tells the story of a man (Ejiofor) kidnapped into slavery who is forced to spend 12 years living in increasingly brutal circumstances. Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano and Bryan Batt play various oppressors, with Nyong'o, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodard, Paul Giamatti, Michael K. Williams, Quvenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry, Taran Killam, Scoot McNairy, Garret Dillahunt and Brad Pitt rounding out the film's massive supporting cast.
"Had Steve McQueen not already christened his previous picture thus, 'Shame' would have been the perfect one-word title to capture the gut-wrenching impact of his third and most essential feature," writes Variety critic Peter Debruge. "This epic account of an unbreakable soul makes even Scarlett O’Hara's struggles seem petty by comparison."