by Walter Chaw With performances this good, with a director this astonishing, the only thing that could make it less than transcendent, I'm afraid, is source material so well-respected, so revered truth be known, that it limits the places the cast and director might otherwise go. What I'm saying is that the prospect of Steve McQueen making a slave narrative is one to savour, celebrate, induce chills in the hearts of every serious scholar of cinema as experiential philosophy--and the prospect of Steve McQueen adapting Solomon Northrup's (as related to white lawyer David Wilson) 12 Years a Slave is one to inspire some level of inevitable disappointment. What I expected was to be blown away by Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor's performances--and I was. What I didn't expect was to be disturbed by a few instances of manipulation of the document that seem driven by something other than good faith. Why, for instance, would one portray the death of a black conspirator on a slaver ship bound for Louisiana at the hand of a white crewman about to rape a sympathetic figure, when the document reveals this conspirator was taken by smallpox? For the sake of drama? Were the roles reversed, this kind of narrative manipulation would take on a decidedly different hue.