12 Years A Slave, The Railway Man, The Square: this week's new films

12 Years A Slave | The Railway Man | Delivery Man | After Tiller | 1: Life On The Limit | Exposed: Beyond Burlesque
12 Years A Slave
12 Years A Slave. Photograph: Rex
12 Years A Slave. Photograph: Rex
Sat 11 Jan 2014 01.00 EST

12 Years A Slave (15)
(Steve McQueen, 2013, US/UK) Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano. 134 mins

What with the acclaim, the awards buzz and the harrowing subject matter, finally seeing McQueen's slavery drama now feels like a duty. But this is an "issue movie" unlike any other, both in its deliberate formalism and its under-represented history. Along with Ejiofor's abductee, we're fully immersed in a slavery system so brutally oppressive even the expression of suffering is forbidden. McQueen gives us a study of institutionalised cruelty, the forces propping it up and its innumerable victims.

The Railway Man (15)
(Jonathan Teplitzky, 2013, Aus/UK) Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman. 116 mins

Middle-aged romance is rapidly derailed by events of the past in this earnest bio-drama, as Kidman spurs Scotsman Firth to revisit his Asian prisoner-of-war days, first through flashback, then through direct confrontation with his Japanese tormentor.

The Square (15)
(Jehane Noujaim, 2013, Egy/US) 108 mins

The recent Egyptian revolution is fully evoked in this first-hand doc, which navigates the street-level chaos via three friends at the heart of the Tahrir Square protests – first against Mubarak, then the military, then the Muslim Brotherhood. The initial hope and unity steadily give way to discord and uncertainty, but this isn't the end of the story.

Delivery Man (12A)
(Ken Scott, 2013, US) Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders. 104 mins

No-hoper Vaughn's sperm-donor days come back to haunt him in the form of 533 offspring, in this remake of a French-Canadian comedy that wasn't all that hilarious to begin with.

After Tiller (NC)
(Martha Shane, Lana Wilson, 2013, US) 85 mins

Sensitive, level-headed documentary on the four remaining doctors performing late-term abortions in the US (since Dr George Tiller was assassinated in 2009). Humanity cuts through politics, as we focus on the doctors and their distressed patients.

1: Life On The Limit (12A)
(Paul Crowder, 2013, US) 112 mins

Another white-knuckle racing doc to sell Formula One to those who didn't get Senna or Rush (ie: Americans). The focus is on the sport's most dangerously exciting era, the 1960s and 70s, when drivers were real men and safety was for wimps.

Exposed: Beyond Burlesque (18)
(Beth B, 2013, US) 76 mins

Uninhibited documentary positioning striptease as a subversive art form, as practised by male, female, transgender and disabled performance artists.

Kiss The Water (PG)
(Eric Steel, 2013, US/UK) 79 mins

The gentle art of fly fishing eulogised in a semi-animated documentary centred on the late Megan Boyd, Scottish fly-tier extraordinaire.

Bounty Killer (18)
(Henry Saine, 2013, US) Matthew Marsden, Kristanna Loken, Christian Pitre. 91 mins

Action-heavy mayhem, with bounty hunters targeting corporate villains out in a Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic dystopia.

Out from Friday

Oh Boy
Oh Boy. Photograph: Christiane Pausch

Oh Boy

Comical character study of a young Berlin dropout that's bagged festival prizes.

Devil's Due

A surprise pregnancy turns out to be a precursor to a satanic nightmare.

Out from Thu

The Wolf Of Wall Street

Leonardo DiCaprio lives the high life of capitalism, then takes the fall.

Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus

Michael Cera as a drugs bore on a quest for hallucinogens.

Tim's Vermeer

A non-artist attempts to unlock the secret of Vermeer's photo-quality paintings.

The Night Of The Hunter

Robert Mitchum's love/hate preacher returns in this unique fairytale-like thriller.

Coming soon

In two weeks... The Coens do folk in Inside Llewyn Davies… Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts in August: Osage County

In three weeks... Mark Wahlberg takes on the Taliban in Lone Survivor… Christian Bale seeks justice in Out Of The Furnace

In a month... Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club… Ralph Fiennes is Dickens in The Invisible Woman