12 YEARS A SLAVE
(US/UK - 2013)
Directed by Steve McQueen. Written by John Ridley. Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard, Sarah Paulson, Lupita Nyong'o, Scoot McNairy, Taran Killam, Garret Dillahunt, Adepero Oduye, Michael Kenneth Williams, J.D. Evermore, Andy Dylan, Kelsey Scott, Quevenzhane Wallis, Bill Camp, Chris Chalk, Tony Bentley, Christopher Berry, Liza J. Bennett. (R, 134 mins)
Solomon Northrup's 1853 memoir is adapted into a typically brutal and unflinching offering from British filmmaker Steve McQueen, who previously gave us the similarly harrowing hunger-strike chronicle HUNGER (2008) and the NC-17 sex addiction drama SHAME (2011). McQueen has already made his mark as a noteworthy modern filmmaker, but 12 YEARS A SLAVE shows he can make a commercial, mainstream film without watering down his pursuit of graphic and ugly realism. This is a gut-wrenching, upsetting, and horrifying film, and arguably the most unblinking, in-your-face depiction of slavery that you're likely to see. It's not hyperbole to compare it to SCHINDLER'S LIST as the final cinematic word on a specific subject.