12 Years A Slave is the film version of Solomon Northup's account of his kidnap and subsequent sale into slavery until his rescue twelve years later. The real-life account of the tragic fate of Northup and the appalling conditions he and millions of other slaves were forced to endure has been turned into a feature-length epic by British director Steve McQueen, who leads a largely British cast in the film that is being heralded by critics as a must-see film.

Chiwetel Ejiofor
Chiwetel Ejiofor is spellbounding in 12 Years A Slave

Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon, McQueen adapted the memoirs of the main character along with John Ridley to chronicle Solomon's harrowing twelve years, where he went from being a freeman living in New York, to a plantation slave in New Orleans between 1841 and 1853. Ejiofor has been roundly praised for his exceptonal acting talents, as have the rest of the cast, who include Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfre Woodard and Michael Fassbender, whose role as the heartless slave trader Edwin Epps has also been widely applauded for his unflinching brutality and realism.

Michael Fassbender
Michael Fassbender is being praised for his villainous turn as Edwin Epps

"12 Years a Slave offers no false Hollywood catharsis along with its muted happy ending, because we're not free from the curse of slavery yet," Andrew O'Hehir said for Salon.com. His review, like others, goes on to praise McQueen's relentless presentation of the evils of slavery, and like his past titles, such as Hunger and Shame, he comments that McQueen leaves no stone unturned as he explores the depths of man's inhumanity towards it's fellow man, not skimping on the sometimes uncomfortable details. As Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times goes on to say of McQueen, "When a director who never ever blinks takes on a horrific subject, a nightmare in broad daylight is the inevitable result."

Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt is one of the few big names in the film, and helped bring it to life

"The harrowing 12 Years a Slave is a mesmerizing period drama for the ages," USA Today's Claudia Puig added, heaping individual praise on the cast and director for his "disturbingly vivid" cinematic choices. Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post further heaped the praise on McQueen, saying, "McQueen doesn't go in for a lot of flash edits or self-conscious visual flourishes to put viewers at ease; rather, he invites the audience to sit with him as he gazes, amazed, at man's inhumanity to man."

Paul Dano
Paul Dano satrs as John Tibeats

Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal does not see 12 Years A Slave as just another pre-Civil War movie however, instead he claims that the film transcends the usual realms of filmmaking to become a future reference point to what the horrors of slavery were truly like. He writes, "It seems certain to transcend the movie realm and become a new reference point in contemporary culture-a defining vision of what slavery looked like, and felt like, in the U.S. before the Civil War."

12 Years A Slave is release on a limited basic in the USA on 18 October and will arrive in cinemas in the UK on 24 January.

Benedict Cumberbatch
Benedict Cumberbatch in his latest Oscar-worthy performance

Watch the trailer for 12 Years A Slave

Alfre Woodard
Alfre Woodard as she appears in the film

Paul Giamatti
Paul Giamatti as
Theophilus Freeman