Review: ’12 Years a Slave,’ a powerful achievement

October 16, 2013 • Entertainment

This image released by Fox Searchlight shows Benedict Cumberbatch, left, and Chiwetel Ejofor in a scene from “12 Years A Slave.” (AP Photo/Fox Searchlight, Jaap Buitendijk)

Is it possible to convey, through the experience of just one man, the sweep and enormity of the horror that was American slavery?

That, quite simply, is the formidable task that British director Steve McQueen has set for himself with his new film, the blistering “12 Years a Slave.” And even if the movie weren’t as good as it is, we’d need to thank him for trying; far too few filmmakers have had the courage or initiative to address head-on the darkest chapter of U.S. history.

As it happens, the film is stunningly good, thanks both to McQueen’s unflinching, unsentimental approach and to impeccable casting, most crucially of the wonderfully expressive Chewitel Ejiofor as a man with a truly extraordinary — and extraordinarily true — story.

The film is based on the memoir of Solomon Northup, a black man who was born free in New York. In 1841, Northup, a Login to read more

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