12 Years a Slave 2013 ★★★½


Las Vegas Weekly review. Better than I expected, as odd as that may sound given the overwhelming acclaim—it seemed likely to trigger my well-known allergy to victimization narratives, which I contend are fundamentally anti-dramatic. Only partially falls into that trap, thankfully (key line: "I don't want to survive. I want to live"), and I cried and shuddered in all the right places. Still, there's nothing even remotely challenging or unexpected here, and McQueen's so awed by his subject that he even forgoes his usual creepy aestheticization (though he can't resist some stunning shots through a moving paddle wheel) and kinda turns into Norman Jewison or somebody.