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Rated R · 133 minutes · 2014
Based on a true story, this commanding drama by Steve McQueen (Hunger) is the most uncompromising movie about American slavery I've ever seen, which might have something to do with the fact that McQueen is black and almost every other filmmaker to tackle the subject has been white. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northrup, a free man from Saratoga Springs, New York, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841. Aside from a northern abolitionist (played by Brad Pitt) who arrives very late in the story, there are no comforting white characters; the slave holders are, at best, high-minded souls who fail to act on their principles (Benedict Cumberbatch as Northrup's guilt-ridden first owner) or, at worst, relentless sadists (Michael Fassbender as a pious plantation owner whose lust for one of his slaves is indistinguishable from his savagery toward her). Slavery here is not only a great moral darkness but a sweeping canvas for depicting the emotional deformities of the people who enforced and exploited the practice. Among the first-rate cast are Lupita Nyong'o, Paul Giamatti, Scoot McNairy, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson, and Alfre Woodard.


See our full review: Year in review: 2013 at the movies

Year in review: 2013 at the movies

J.R. Jones and Ben Sachs each pick their top ten. »

<i>12 Years a Slave</i>: Mighty white of you

12 Years a Slave: Mighty white of you

Steve McQueen's historical drama tells of a free northerner taken into bondage. »

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Official Site: www.12yearsaslave.com
Director: Steve McQueen
Producer: Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Bill Pohlad, Steve McQueen, Arnon Milchan, Anthony Katagas, John Ridley and Tessa Ross
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Garret Dillahunt, Paul Giamatti, Scoot McNairy, Lupita Nyong'o, Adepero Oduye, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Michael Williams, Alfre Woodard, Chris Chalk, Taran Killam, Bill Camp, Kelsey Scott, Quvenzhané Wallis and Cameron Zeigler

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12 Years a Slave

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