With an all-star cast, poignant vision, and heartrending plot, director Steve McQueen’s newest masterpiece, “12 Years a Slave,” is sure to cause a buzz come Oscar season. The film opened on Friday, and is already drawing in viewers by the thousands.
This is the first film under McQueen that has received such attention and so wide a theatrical release. But make no mistake, the director is no novice to the arts. McQueen employs a powerful neo-noir style of filmmaking that does not shy away from the painful, disturbing, even grotesque aspects of the human condition.
McQueen’s first feature length film, “Hunger,” powerfully tells the tale of Bobby Sands, an Irish prisoner who leads a hunger strike during his incarceration. Michael Fassbender, Liam McMahon, and Stuart Graham are among the top billed cast.
McQueen’s second feature film, “Shame,” reaches even further into the depths of humanity by exploring the struggles of a young American man lost in the grips of sexual addiction. The film showcases Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan in brilliant performances. McQueen illustrates his daring nature as a filmmaker in “Shame,” as he does not hesitate to bring the audience into the unwholesome lifestyle of his main character, Brendan (Fassbender), which earns the film an NC-17 rating in the U.S.
“12 Years a Slave” depicts the grizzly hardships of Solomon Northup, a free man forced into slavery in the American South. The picture stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, and many other talented actors.
In each of his three films, McQueen brings the shocking nature of his subject matter to surface, never glorifying sex or violence, but nevertheless creating a very real and very ghastly depiction of both. The filmmaker has much more than a director’s eye, but instead has the eye of an artist. In fact, McQueen began his career by filming silent short films in black and white and projecting them on the walls of art galleries in England. This not so typical entry into film has molded McQueen’s works into strikingly beautiful and commanding illustrations of real life.
“12 Years a Slave” will become the film that brings Steve McQueen to the limelight as one of the next great directors of our time. Those having the courage to brave the alarming motion picture will surely tell you, McQueen deserves all the praise he receives for his efforts. If other directors would take note of his methods, Hollywood would be rich in quality productions. McQueen’s realism, as painful and disturbing as it may be, is a breathe of fresh air for modern cinema. Even more, it has sparked new life in the art of filmmaking, and McQueen is no stranger to art.