’12 Years a Slave’ Review: A Captivating, Harrowing Historical Horror Show

Starting out with a wronged-innocent-man plot that would have given Hitchcock some sleepless nights, and then plunging that beleaguered hero into one of American history’s most horrifying abominations, Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” gives us a look at slavery more shocking and unflinching than we’ve ever seen on the big screen.

Adapting the memoir by Solomon Northrup, artist-turned-filmmaker McQueen (“Shame,” “Hunger”) and screenwriter John Ridley (“Three Kings,” “Red Tails”) seem determined to obliterate any lingering “Gone With the Wind”–inspired notions that the antebellum South was a place of grace and charm, or that slavery was, in the euphemism of the day, merely a “peculiar institution.”

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