"12 Years a Slave" tells of an appalling stain in American history, and does so with such an unflinching absence of compromise that many viewers will likely have a hard time sitting through it. Watching it is necessary, though, and hugely rewarding. The film's story, based on the 1853 autobiography by Solomon Northup, is one that needs to be told, and director Steve McQueen (2011's "Shame") more than proves his worth as the one to tell it. His and screenwriter John Ridley's (2012's "Red Tails") raw-to-the-bone depiction of one man's hellish dozen-year experience as a slave in the pre-Civil War era stands as telling counterpoint to Lee Daniels' recent "The Butler," a film that covered some of the same themes from a later time period, but did so with artificiality, casting gimmicks and an antiseptically sleek bow on top. "12 Years a Slave" has no bow and only a minor release from the cruel, unjustified experiences on display. That came much later—and much too late.
See dustinputman.com for full review