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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 150 years ago; slavery-
What surprised me most about this film is that it is almost a quiet story; nearly intimate.
When Solomon sees his wife after 12 years, he doesn't spout hatred at his misfortune, he apologizes. The film doesn't shout protestations or insults at white en-slavers, it is an endearing and harrowing tale of a dignified man.
This doesn't mean there aren't moments that...
Published 8 months ago by Samarees Sword

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Superficial and gratuitously violent
I can see why some people love this film and some people hate it. I'm in two minds myself - I can see how the book might explain things better, and the book was published in 1853!
On one hand, it portrays slavery in USA Southern States quite dramatically. The destruction of families that the kidnaps cause (but why was Solomon Northup kidnapped? Was it simply because...
Published 12 days ago by Hugo Minney


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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 150 years ago; slavery-, 25 May 2014
This review is from: 12 Years a Slave [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
What surprised me most about this film is that it is almost a quiet story; nearly intimate.
When Solomon sees his wife after 12 years, he doesn't spout hatred at his misfortune, he apologizes. The film doesn't shout protestations or insults at white en-slavers, it is an endearing and harrowing tale of a dignified man.
This doesn't mean there aren't moments that make one flinch and feel the immense emotion for millions of people who were victims of a vile and horrific business, but it is whispered through the glimpses of the sun-drenched porches- it is sung with the voices of the surrendered and the strings of Solomons' violin.

The film is mostly told from Solomon Northups' perspective, though Steve McQueen often uses his camera eye as omniscient narrator as well.
The cinematography is poetic, sublime and at times magnificently beautiful, even through the terror. There is a scene when our protagonist is nearly hung by neighboring slavers, in a few takes which seemed like an eternity; we marvel and are disgusted by its base, lack of humanity, all the while fellow slaves go about their daily lives in a beautiful summer setting in the Deep South,the crickets humming to the heat,ignoring the injured- nearly hung body of Solomon. This scene struck a raw chord, as it truly encapsulated a perfect depiction of what slavery was; the life of a slave was worthless to most.

McQueen used music motifs effectively, employing sour tones during its darkest moments, which added to the well-crafted artistry of this film.
The characterizations of all the players were superb; Ejiofor, believable and heartfelt in every scene.
My only complaint would be the passing of 12 years.The audience couldn't grasp the passing of all that time; to me,it is vitally important to make the toll and weight of all those years as part of the narrative, as it shaped Solomons' experience.
However this is an historical tale,wonderfully told and not to be missed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'A TRUE STORY OF COURAGE IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY', 15 May 2014
By 
rbmusicman (U.K) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A TRUE STORY ADAPTED FROM THE NOVEL WRITTEN BY 'SOLOMON NORTHUP'
In 1841 'Solomon' lives a free man with his wife and two Children, he is tricked and abducted,
then sold into slavery.
He is sold to plantation owner 'Edwin Epps' a man of few principles and a hard task-master.
He is stripped of both his identity and dignity, he is even given a slave-name, 'Platt'
'Solomon' is determined not to forget his past even though there seems to be no hope of
freedom.
As a free man he'd made his own decisions, and had a mind of his own, his ability's are
recognised by an associate of 'Epps' - 'Ford' who actually listens to the views of 'Platt'
and is rewarded with a 'fiddle' an instrument he was skilled in playing.
However the realities of his station soon rears it's ugly head over and over again.
There is little hope for the slaves on the plantation to realize anything but how things
are, however a chance meeting with 'Canadian' abolitionist 'Bass' finally gives 'Platt'
(Solomon) hope for the first time in 12 years.
The film is filled with some extraordinary performances.
Few holds barred in this depiction of the brutal regime slaves often endured in their
world of physical and verbal abuse a constant.
'Solomon' despite all that is thrown at him never gives up hope of returning to his now,
long lost family.
This is an intense and often graphically brutal story.....the horror being is that it's true.
Special Features -
* Meet the creative minds assembled by director 'Steve McQueen' to bring 'Solomon
Northup's' journey in life.
* The Score - Follow film composer 'Hans Zimmer' creating the dramatic Score.
Blu-ray Exclusive -
* A Historic Portrait -
Explore director 'Steve McQueen's' unique artistry in bringing this remarkable story to
life in this documentary including 'cast' and 'crew' interviews.
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81 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Come and see, 14 Jan. 2014
This review is from: 12 Years a Slave [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
I want to put into words how this film affected me, but, appropriately enough, there aren't the words there. Steve McQueen's adaptation of Solomon Northup's memoir is a film in which words are precious and very carefully chosen - whether shouted or sung or uttered in whispers out of earshot of the savage ruling class.

Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a free man tricked into slavery. The story charts his ordeal - and those of countless others - under the tortuous watchfulness of a series of plantation owners, cruellest of whom is Edwin Epps (McQueen regular Michael Fassbender). It is a film whose relentless scenes of abuse are punctuated by levity of only the most desperate and solemn kind, and which is determinedly unbothered by the comforts of sentimentality.

Ejiofor captures the agony at the heart of Northup, from the initial indignity of his situation, through physical torture endured, observed and committed, to the brutal annihilation of his character through supremacist re-education. In place of the stock conclusions drawn by Hollywood, John Ridley's script has other ideas: rather than rousing speeches there are bursts of quickly-suppressed anger; instead of soaring emotion, upon release Northup remains bound in the shackles of guilt left upon him by the guilty.

As with his previous films (Hunger and Shame), McQueen embeds meaning in the frame. These aren't pretty images for the sake of it. The burning of a letter represents the dwindling of hope - and yet how long it seems to take to dwindle, and we linger until every sliver of fire is spent, staring ever harder for the remaining light in the darkness. Northup is staring also, unblinking, into the abyss of humanity around him, holding out for some such glimmer.

In terms of characterisation (do we call them characters if these monsters truly existed?), Ridley and McQueen's greatest decision is to give as much depth to the masters as their slaves. Epps is a vile creature, but we are dared to empathise with him as he impotently hands the whip to Northup, under the emasculating gaze of his jealous wife (Sarah Paulson). The object of Epps' violently ambivalent affections is Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o) an angel in a world where the beautiful and the talented are particularly prized for self-sanctified hatred.

So it seems I have found the words to describe a little of my experience of watching this remarkable film. It's a reminder that cinema is not solely a reserve of entertainment, and that the atrocities of humankind sometimes need to be shown to us - nakedly, harrowingly, unforgettably.
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62 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary., 12 Jan. 2014
No movie that I have ever watched has depicted slavery so unflinchingly and earnestly. The fact that this film was based on a true story also adds something to its gravitas. I felt exhausted by the end of my viewing and there has been talk of people walking out of cinemas due to the raw intensity and the unflinching way in which the subject matter is tackled. But I say endure and you will be rewarded with the extraordinary true story of an American hero and a story that is long overdue in American cinema. There was debate about whether or not this was an important movie in the that country's cinema canon but for my money, considering that there seems to have been something preventing Hollywood and equally the country it belongs to addressing honestly the darkest chapter of their history, make no mistake, this is as important as movies get.

Brave, bold, committed filmmaking of the highest order.

Steve McQueen...I salute you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Superficial and gratuitously violent, 18 Jan. 2015
By 
Hugo Minney "hugie" (Durham, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
I can see why some people love this film and some people hate it. I'm in two minds myself - I can see how the book might explain things better, and the book was published in 1853!
On one hand, it portrays slavery in USA Southern States quite dramatically. The destruction of families that the kidnaps cause (but why was Solomon Northup kidnapped? Was it simply because he looked like someone, even though his kidnappers clearly knew he wasn't the right person?). The gratuitous violence meted out to slaves and prospective slaves. The contrast between slave owners who felt it was their duty "for the good of America" to be as violent and repressive as possible, and people who understood that this could not be right.
On the other, it appeared to perpetuate a stereotype that (word not allowed on Amazon reviews) had no ambition and no aspiration and deserved to be slaves. I can just imagine the keyboards clicking as you read this, shouting back - think before you protest.
Solomon, and other Free Northerners kidnapped like him, railed against the system but found themselves powerless. We see him learn to not rock the boat too much, to put up with things, in effect, to give up his humanity. Yet we see people born into slavery mutely accepting what is meted out, rarely extending beyond their roles as 2 Dimensional extras.
There's far more emphasis on the effect of the slave system on the white people,
* people who realise they have been corrupted and try, half-heartedly, to make amends;
* people who genuinely stand up against the system, either as land owners treating the slaves with respect like servants;
* people who simply succumb and become miserable monsters, completely swallowed up with an image of themselves as broken gods.
So what about the slave who asked Solomon to kill her, to free her from this miserable existence? She appears briefly, beaten up one time, defiant the next (and whipped for it), silently but hopelessly pleading when Solomon is rescued. But her story is almost more worthy of full treatment than that of Solomon himself.
There's plenty of gratuitous violence. There are plenty of nasty people - with no redeeming features or personality traits. This is not a film with subtlety in it, no multi-dimensions. I say it's for sadists and masochists - sadists who want to see people crying out in pain, and masochists who want to watch it so they can feel good about how bad they feel about slavery. I wouldn't recommend it to any of my friends
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Man's inhumanity to man, 11 Jan. 2015
This review is from: 12 Years a Slave (DVD)
I can see why this film won so many awards and it deserves its many accolades. The acting, direction, cinematography are top class. The violence against the slaves was very hard to watch and very graphic and made me literally flinch. One scene which I found particularly hard to watch was when Soloman was left hanging for what seemed hours with just his tip-toes on the ground. Life went on around him as everyone ignored him except for one small kindness from another slave. The film is beautifully shot with many long scenes where there is little or no dialogue, but everything is conveyed perfectly through the eyes and expression of the actors. Everyone should see this film because they need to understand what went on, but I can appreciate also that it is not easy to watch.

I do have some small criticisms - the passage of 12 years was not adequately portrayed so it was difficult to keep track in that respect. It would also have made for a better film if perhaps the director had included some scenes with his family on how they were coping with his disappearance. Finally - some explanation on how his family had coped financially during the 12 years he was away would have made for a more satisfying ending, although I appreciated the text "catch-up" which explained "what happened next".
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78 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the land of the free, 12 Jan. 2014
By 
Antenna (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: 12 Years a Slave [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
Solomon Northup, the son of a former slave, was a free man living in upstate New York when he was tricked, kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841. He spent twelve years working for a series of masters in the sugar and cotton plantations of the swampy Louisiana bayou country until regaining his freedom against the odds. This film is based on the account of his experiences, written in conjunction with a white lawyer called David Wilson, and authenticated, including in part by the drunken and sadistic Mr Epps, his final master.

With his artist's eye , McQueen brings out the beauty of the natural landscape, red sunrise over the river, hanging branches draped in Spanish moss, or the rhythmic power of the paddle-steamer, carving furrows through the sparkling water as it transports the captives to their harsh destiny. This film renounces any sentimentality, ramming home the fact that slaves were regarded as property so could be treated without any consideration or mercy. The only reason for keeping them alive was because an owner had paid good money for them, and they could earn more for him through their labour. We see how Mr Epps could terrorise a female slave with whom he had become sexually obsessed, whilst his wife tormented the poor woman at the same time out of jealousy.

Everyone will learn something different from this drama. In my case, it was the extent to which slaves were punished for being literate, since this was seen as giving access to knowledge and revolt. Ironically, slaves were then despised for the ignorance in which they were held. Also, when their stories were written with the help of a white people, it was claimed that hardships had been exaggerated by abolitionists to strengthen their case.

The violent beatings are hard to witness. It's debatable whether these scenes are too long, the rationale being that this brings home the intolerable brutality endured. One striking moment is when the hero has to burn, out of fear of discovery, a letter which he has taken great pains to produce, in perhaps his last chance to get help. Another is when, having resolutely refused to sing the haunting spirituals, the only emotional outlet for slaves, Northup at last gives in, belting the song out lustily in his anger.

Chitwetel Ejiofor deserves all the praise that has been heaped on him, with his expressive face conveying in turn disbelief, fear, anger, despair, hope and even loss at the point of his release when he has to leave behind to suffer alone someone for whom he has come to care.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential viewing, 7 Mar. 2014
By 
J. welch "cinephile" (man, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Not a comfortable viewing experience but considering the subject matter it shouldn't be. Enthralling, absorbing, powerful, beautiful, emotional and gut wrenching are some words that come to mind. It is hard to describe in words but I will say watch this film you will not regret it. One of the best films in recent years - a modern classic. The cast are all superb -especially Chiwetel Ejiofo rand Lupita Nyong'o.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The cast is excellent, and some of the casting is surprising, 22 Dec. 2014
By 
Derek Vernon-morris (Greater Manchester UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: 12 Years a Slave [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
This is a remarkable story of mental and physical endurance. It again pinpoints the heart breaking realities of enforced labour and how one set of people may use another and still not see that they are equal. Maybe racial tension will remain with the world for a long time in spite of the efforts of sincere and enlightened people.
The cast is excellent, and some of the casting is surprising, as they bring the well written book to life. (I have read the book). The bonus features explain the philosophy behind the making of the film. There is a certain beauty in the photography of locations which offsets and compliments the tyrannical violence, and often a confrontational humour.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 6 Jun. 2014
This review is from: 12 Years a Slave (DVD)
Having found the book a powerful and moving read, I was very disappointed in the film.
Solomon Northup has such intelligence and integrity as a narrator and so much of that is missing from the film. It's not that Chiwetel Eijiofor doesn't do a fantastic job in the role (the ending is particularly well acted), it's just that it could have been so much more in my opinion.
I imagine that many of the scenes will have been confusing as there is a lack of exposition and clear dialogue. I know that a narrative voice-over is often cheesy in films but I think this film could have benefited from one, such is the quality of the writing in the book and if ever a true story needed the full details to be declared clearly to the audience, it is this one.
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12 Years a Slave [DVD] [2013]
12 Years a Slave [DVD] [2013] by Steve McQueen (DVD - 2014)
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