16 July 2013 3:35 AM, PDT | Moviefone | See recent Moviefone news »

Director Steve McQueen has never been one to shy away from emotionally wrenching subject matter, whether it's sex addiction ("Shame") or the Ira Hunger Strike of 1981 ("Hunger"). His newest film is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free man who lived in New York until he was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the pre-Civil War era.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, who has appeared in "Salt," "Children of Men," "Inside Man," and "Kinky Boots," is flexing his dramatic chops as Northup, a violinist turned plantation slave who has to find a way to survive in his new, terrible surroundings. In USA Today, McQueen described Ejiofor as "a Sidney Poitier or even Harry Belafonte. ... There's a certain kind of class and dignity about him. He brings that with him wherever he goes."

The ensemble cast is truly impressive, with McQueen's frequent collaborator Michael Fassbender starring as plantation owner Edwin Epps; Benedict Cumberbatch as Northup's first, »

- Jenni Miller

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