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Rated R · 133 min. · 2013
Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave is the movie for people who think they’re too smart for The Butler. The true story it tells is horrifying: In 1841, Solomon Northup, a free, educated black man from Saratoga, New York, was kidnaped, sold into slavery, and transported to Louisiana. His captivity lasted 12 years. Northup recounted his story in 12 Years a Slave, a piercing memoir published in 1853. The title alone is austere and direct, almost painfully elegant, and that must have been the effect McQueen was going for, too. His 12 Years a Slave is beautifully shot (by Sean Bobbitt), contrasting the all-too-visible evil of mankind with the occasional ribbon of pretty sky peeking through the Louisiana trees. The story is told with calm clarity, its pace stately and respectful in accordance with its subject matter. John Ridley's script hews closely to the language and details of Northup's book. Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano, and Paul Giamatti all render their services in villainous roles. It's all so perfect, so right. As Northup, Chiwetel Ejiofor brings all his gifts to bear here. His subtlety is the earth-moving kind: He could probably shift a mountain just by arching an eyebrow. But aside from the nuanced lead performance-- plus an oak-tree-tall supporting one by Benedict Cumberbatch, as well as a breath of movie-star vitality from Brad Pitt in a very small role-- it's a picture that stays more than a few safe steps away from anything so dangerous as raw feeling. Even when it depicts inhuman cruelty, it comes off as weirdly antiseptic, history made safe through art.


See our full review:

12 Years a Slave Is a Perfectly Crafted, Brutal Story. But Does Its Beauty Keep Us at a Distance?

Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave is the movie for people who think they're too smart for Lee Daniels' The Butler. The story it tells, a true one, is horrifying: In 1841, Solomon Northup, a free, educated black man from Saratoga, N.Y., was kidnapped, sold into slavery and transported to... »

Official Site: www.foxsearchlight.com/12yearsaslave
Director: Steve McQueen
Writer: John Ridley
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Garrett Dillahunt, Paul Giamatti, Scott McNairy, Lupita Nyong'o, Adepero Oduye and Sarah Paulson

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