Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave stars Chiwetel Ejifor as Solomon Northup, a free black man in 1840s America. He makes his living as a fiddle player, and his wife is a teacher. He is shanghaied by a pair of nefarious white men, and soon finds himself on a ship headed to New Orleans where he is informed he will be called Platt and is sold into slavery by an unscrupulous businessman (Paul Giamatti). As he toils away for the kindhearted but conflicted plantation owner Mr. Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), who recognizes that Platt is both educated and an artist, he butts head with Ford's underlings, especially the casually cruel Tibeats (Paul Dano). After they have a violent altercation, Ford fears for his slave's life and sells him to Mr. Epps (Michael Fassbender), an alcoholic sadist who owns a cotton plantation.
Though Epps reads from the bible to his property, as he frequently refers to his slaves, he is himself not immune to sins of the flesh. He has taken the young Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o) - his best cotton picker -- as his lover, and this doesn't sit well at all with his severe wife (Sarah Paulson), whose particular hatred for blacks and her jealousy fuels her many degrading actions toward Patsey. Solomon bides his time, attempts to preserve a modicum of self-respect, and waits for the chance to reclaim his rightful name as well as his family.~Perry Seibert