“12 Years a Slave” is not an easy film to watch.

Based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was abducted in 1841 and sold into slavery, this is the quintessential film on American slavery.

It is a brave piece that takes the uneasy subject and creates a superb piece of cinema. It is among the very best films of 2013.

Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Northup, who spent 12 years in slavery facing unspeakable cruelty. The film follows his ordeal and how he eventually regained his freedom.

Ejiofor is a commanding presence in the lead, perfectly conveying the emotional and physical abuse Northup endured. This is the tale of a man who was beaten down but managed to maintain hope and was eventually rewarded.

“12 Years a Slave” is full of strong supporting work as well. 

Newcomer Lupita Nyong’o is a likely Oscar contender as Patsey – a slave abused and raped by her owner Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender in another performance that will likely earn an Oscar nod).

Fassbender’s work as Epps, who quotes scripture and truly believes it his God-given right to be a slave owner, could be the best performance in the film. Paul Dano and Sarah Paulson are strong in supporting roles.

Director Steve McQueen also deserves praise. The camera serves as a window into this time period, and the pictures we see aren’t always pretty.

This is a film that will linger with audiences long after the final credits, a memorable experience that captures the era of slavery and the cruelty that slaves had to endure.

Also in theaters

This week’s other major release, “Thor: The Dark World” (B), is much lighter and entertaining in its own right.

The latest Marvel Comics film is a fun diversion that fans of the series will enjoy.

This installment finds Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in a battle with ancient warriors who not only threaten his home of Asgard, but Earth as well.

Against his father’s wishes, Thor returns to Earth to protect Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) only to put everyone in more danger.

With nowhere else to turn, Thor enlists the help of his shamed and imprisoned brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

Director Alan Taylor takes the reins from previous director Kenneth Branagh and does a solid job of keeping the film flowing at a brisk pace.

This is probably the most ambitious Marvel entry from a special effects standpoint, and for the most part it works. It’s a visual spectacle with some flair that is nearly as fun as the snappy screenplay, which is a lot like “Avengers” and the first two “Iron Man” films.

Hemsworth has settled into the role of Thor rather nicely, while Hiddleston has a good time as Loki – pretty much stealing the film.

“Thor: The Dark World” likely won’t add to the Marvel fan base, but it won’t disappoint either. It’s a step in the right direction after the disappointment of “Iron Man 3.”

“Thor: The Dark World” is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some suggestive content and is now playing at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12, Highland Cinemas in Glasgow and the Franklin Drive-In.

— To get sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton’s thoughts on all things movies, visit his blog at mcompton.wordpress.com or his Twitter page at twitter.com/mcompton428. Email him at mcompton@bgdailynews.com.


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