Wow. I didn't think I would see a movie this year better than Gravity. Well, I have. 12 Years a Slave is a brutal, realistic, and unforgiving film about a free black man in the mid-1800's that is abducted and sold into slavery. This movie is a triumph of modern filmmaking. Director Steve McQueen might as well have put chains on everyone in the theater and made us slaves to his brilliant film, as it hurts to watch. The brutally real scenes of violence, mental torture, and rape are so well directed, filmed, acted, and edited that even though it's hard to watch, you can't look away. This is accomplished through both Steve McQueen's passionate direction and through the amazing performances given. Chiwetel Ejlofor gives a stunning and captivating performance as the kidnapped Solomon Northup. Throughout the whole film, we watch as his character is forced to leave his comfortable life with his family in the North and quickly grow accustomed to the harsh life of slavery. He is beat down, tortured (physically and mentally), forced to watch and commit horrific acts, and forced to almost completely repress his gentlemanly and scholarly nature. Yet, through all of this, his character still remains hopeful. It takes a true genius of an actor to convey all the pain, anger, hatred, and oppression that Solomon feels, yet at the same time conveying that slight glimmer of hope that he has. Michael Fassbender is the other stand out performance in this film, as the slaver Edwin Epps. He is brutal, violent, tortuous, and incredibly close minded, contradicting, and he is quote possibly one of the best on screen villains I've seen in a very long time. One final thing I will say about this movie is the incredible score by Hans Zimmer. It is unlike anything he's done before, and I look forward to listening to it more. Not only is this a great film, but it is a necessary one. The film portrays slavery in the most realistic way possible, and is an emotional and hard-to-watch film that will definitely be a top contender at the Academy Awards next year. 11 out of 10 stars.