To start with, two bits of advice: if you like grownup, realistic character drama, by all means, see Philomena. And if you have a hearing problem like mine, ask to borrow a pair of earphones the theater has that will enable you to adjust the sound to the volume you need. Because a lot of the dialogue is murmured or even whispered, very confidential, and what I could hear of it convinced me that I wished I could hear it all.
It isn't so much the beatings that make 12 Years A Slave hard to watch-- they will, in any case, not appall the moviegoers who have made the Saw and Hostel franchises profitable, and there are only a few of them-- it's the endless pitilessness of the white characters' attitudes toward the black characters, their utter inability to recognize them as human beings.
Captain Phillips is the supposedly true story of the hijacking of an American cargo ship by Somalian pirates in 2009, and on the whole it's a suspenseful and convincing account with, unfortunately for me, two or three elements that grind me. But they may not bother you, and may actually appeal to you.