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55 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the land of the free
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...
Published 3 months ago by Antenna

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18 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 12 years a slave - you wouldn't know it from the film.
Acting was superb no doubt about it. The story is also a very powerful one. However, the film didn't convey the passing of time at all for me. I didn't perceive that Solomon Northup was enduring 12 long years of slavery at all. For me it could just as well have been titled 12 weeks or 12 months a slave.

I was left disappointed.
Published 2 months ago by Anthony Turnbull


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55 of 63 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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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Come and see, 14 Jan 2014
By 
R. J. Harvey (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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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26 of 31 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
4.0 out of 5 stars A man sold into slavery., 2 April 2014
By 
This review is from: 12 Years a Slave [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
Some films just gag to get an Oscar, "12 Years a Slave" was so obviously a die-hard contender. Based on a first-person account, this drama about the African-American family man (free New Yorker in the middle of the Nineteenth century) drugged and kidnapped from his life as a successful violinist and sold into slavery truly has it all. It's an important true story (and a rare one - not so many movies were made about slavery in the USA), it has great cast of actors (who deliver profound stares at the camera and quotes such as "I don't want to survive - I want to live") from Chiwetel Ejiofor (impressive performance) to Benedict Cumberbatch (a "nice and humane" slave-owner), from Brad Pitt (free thinking Canadian contractor, also knows as a film producer) to Lupita Nyong'o (who won Oscar for her portrayal of an abused pet slave of a half-crazy Michael Fassbender's character).

There is violence, physical and emotional (widely spread within the 2 hours of the film), there is a powerful story (a dozen years of forced slavery), there is a great cast and beautiful direction. We follow the 12 years' journey of Solomon Northup from one Louisiana plantation to the next, under masters who come self-righteously benevolent and wild and unpredictably sadistic, 12 years of beating, indignities, false hopes and desperate attempts to not let one's identity go. It all ends well, with an achingly emotional final scenes (yet another tick for the Oscars).

"12 years a slave" is a thought-provoking and emotional film, somewhat hard to watch, it's a testament to the strength and courage of the human spirit, a story of life, loss and freedom. It's not the best film I saw, and I doubt I will be re-watching it any time soon, but nonetheless I appreciate its importance. Besides, it is very well made.

P.S. If you are interested in the Civil Rights debate, I recommend reading Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" (yes, that Harriet Beecher Stowe that you see as a screensaver on your Kindle!).
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5 of 6 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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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 12 Years a Slave, 22 Jan 2014
This review is from: 12 Years a Slave [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
I didnt think this film would be for me. Its not really my thing. However I thought it was brilliant.

In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Solomon faces cruelty, humiliation and sadness but also, kindness in his 12 years struggle that changed his life. This is based on a true story of Solomon Northup which was first published in 1853.

The acting throughout is brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor did an amazing job portraying Solomon Northup as did Michael Fassbender who portrayed slave owner Edwin Epps. The film also stars Brad Pitt who portrays Bass, Paul Giamatti who portrays Freeman as well as Benedict Cumberbatch who portrays Ford, but all the cast did a brilliant job.

Like I said, I didnt think I would like this film but the film is great and very powerful.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, 6 Feb 2014
By 
GlynLuke (York UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Having recently watched several highly hyped films which left me feeling undernourished, it was a huge relief to see a film with heart, soul, guts and courage.
The story (all too true) is told non-chronologically for the first part of the film, which works well, adding to the utter dislocation and terror felt by Solomon Northup as he`s sold into slavery, and even given a different name. Chiwetel Ejiofor is immaculate and, if anything, understated as Solomon, and gives the performance of his life (whether he wins the Oscar or not seems almost vulgarly irrelevant).
Michael Fassbender is brilliant as his latterday `owner` Edwin Epps, with Sarah Paulson chillingly credible as Epps`s neglected, vengeful wife. Most of the other performances are spot-on, though there was really no need to cast the too obviously English, and somewhat ill-at-ease, Benedict Cumberbatch as a slave owner, his wandering accent a distraction. The casting of co-producer Brad Pitt has been questioned too, but he`s perfectly fine in the small, undemanding but pivotal part of a Canadian abolitionist.
It`s wonderful to see the great Alfre Woodard as Mistress Shaw, the black wife of another slave owner. Her few minutes on screen are as precious as any sighting of this superb actress.
The other tremendous piece of acting in this at times unbearably moving film is by Lupita Nyong`o, playing Patsey, Fassbender`s `favourite` slave and also his reluctant lover. She is heartbreaking - and I hope she wins all the awards she`s up for.
One thing which should be stressed is that director McQueen has made not only a visceral work of cinematic art depicting the iniquities of slavery - or at least some of them - but has fashioned a film that is, perhaps paradoxically, often staggeringly beautiful to look at. But then, why not? It`s a movie, however noble in intent. Such awful suffering took place against a blatantly gorgeous landscape, which only renders the events depicted all the more poignant. His direction takes all this in, as well as each shot being carefully composed.
It`s only February, but so far this year I`ve seen two five-star films (the other being Blue Is The Warmest Colour), both adult, thought-provoking, moving, and stunningly crafted cinematic masterpieces.
Despite a couple of odd casting decisions, this to my mind is without doubt a great film.

Essential viewing, highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars FIFTY SHADES OF LILY WHITE, 15 Mar 2014
By 
The Movie Guy "Movies from A to Z" (United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Solomon Northrup ( Chiwetel Ejiofor) a free black man living in Saratoga, NY is conned into coming to Washington DC where he is taken captive and forced into slavery as part of a slave ring. The film, based on the book, shows the humiliating life Solomon had to endure as "nothing but prized life stock." In spite of his skills and education he could not secure himself a position away from hard labor.

The film depicts graphic beatings, plantation owners infidelity with the slaves, and or course white racist slave owners in a bad light. In a minor role, Paul Giamatti plays a slave trader and Brad Pitt a Canadian abolitionist living in the south.

There is some singing in the film, the roots of spiritual gospel and the blues. It is clear that singing was done to maintain sanity and purpose in a hopeless situation.

The acting was superb. The film is emotional. The only fault is that the title gives away the whole plot and ending which unfortunately was slightly anti-climatic ...funny how real life sometimes does that.

Well worth seeing.

Parental Guide: No F-bombs. Sex and nudity.
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5.0 out of 5 stars amazing, 8 Feb 2014
By 
Rebecca Carter (West Midlands Wolverhampton UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: 12 Years a Slave [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
was truly captivated and gripped from start to finish, thought the whole cast was incredible. Not to give anything away but I thought the scenes were all filmed wonderfully and the music was perfect. Such an emotional and touchy film it's hard to describe it to someone who hasn't watched it but I just loved it
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Your children will soon enough be forgotten...., 16 Jan 2014
Solomon Northup lives as a free man in New York with his wife and two children, earning a living as a violinist.

On what he believes will be an out of town music shoe, he is drugged and sold into slavery under the name Platt. He decides that co-operation is the best way to survive.

He sees few others in the same situation as him, but slowly he is separated from those with who he has built support. This process continues over his life as a slave, as he is at the mercy of whoever his master at the time and his master's associates who work on their own priorities.

But he finds that co-operation generally gets one nowhere and sometimes can get one into further trouble due to jealousy.....

Its a hat trick for McQueen as he has crafted another near perfect film, and has gotten some career best performances from many involved, especially Ejiofor, who is wonderful as Soloman.

The film follows the three act rule of thumb, but when watching this, you cannot help but think that its a film of two halves. The first part the incarceration, and coming to terms, but having a fair owner, played brilliantly by Cumberbatch.

The second part is almost the desperation part of the story, with Soloman becoming desperate, and coming face to face with pure evil, turning his life as a slave into something else. Fassbender is wonderful here, oozing pure menace i to every act he does, whether its dancing, or just sitting there relaxing.

Cinematography is wonderful, and some drawn out scenes, like Soloman hanging, are beautifully sinister.

If there is a better film released this year, film-goers are in for a treat.

A masterpiece on every level.
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12 Years a Slave [DVD] [2013]
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