There are many moments of heart-stopping horror in the extraordinary “12 Years a Slave,” British filmmaker Steve McQueen’s brutal, unblinking look at slavery in the antebellum South via the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man and musician from Saratoga, N.Y., who was kidnapped into bondage in 1841 and was not able to return to his family until 1853.
There is the sequence in a Louisiana auction house when a mother is forcibly separated from her small children, mostly because her new owner William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) — who is about as decent a man as his status allows — simply declines to buy them.
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‘12 Years a Slave’
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch
Rating: R for violence, cruelty, nudity and sexuality
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Theater: Arbor, Violet Crown Cinema