21 November 2013 9:00 AM, PST | Variety - Film News | See recent Variety - Film News news »

Writers and directors have never been shy about sending their characters into car crashes, shootouts, hostile Indian territory or bad marriages. Danger is their business. But the kind of peril faced in several of this season’s more prominent dramas could have been cooked up in a cauldron of woe stirred not only by John Ford, John Carpenter and John Woo, but also Jean-Paul Sartre: The existential terror of an inescapable hell on earth — or space, or sea. And the fear of losing not only one’s life, but one’s sanity.

“He’s in a battle for his mind,” Chiwetel Ejiofor says of his character, Solomon Northup, the subjugated hero of “12 Years a Slave,” echoing the predicament of other imperiled protagonists of 2013: Robert Redford’s solitary sailor in “All Is Lost,” Tom Hanks’ hostage seafarer in “Captain Phillips,” Sandra Bullock’s adrift astronaut in “Gravity” and Matthew McConaughey »


- John Anderson

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