12 Years a Slave ★★★★★
Though showered with awards, the winner of 2013’s best picture Oscar is no comfortable watch. Director Steve McQueen injects this historical saga, based on the memoir by Solomon Northup, with an unflinching sense of righteous indignation. Chiwetel Ejiofor is phenomenal as the free black musician who’s tricked into slavery, enduring incarceration and abuse through sheer force of will. We live every moment with Northup, while Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Fassbender present the two faces of white ownership, one benevolent, one sadistic. Steel yourselves.
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