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86 of 93 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 12 months ago by Samarees Sword

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ponderous telling of a remarkable story
A film with a mighty reputation, that felt a bit disappointing. The story of Solomon Northup's abduction and exploitation as a slave for 12 years is indeed a remarkable one. However, McQueen opts to tell it in a languorous style with many long close ups of Chiwetel Ejiofor and lot of shots of beautiful southern scenery. There is ironically little sense though of the...
Published 5 months ago by Lendrick


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86 of 93 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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92 of 105 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to see why this film won best picture, 12 April 2015
By 
Teresa Walker - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 12 Years a Slave [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
Easy to see why this film won best picture. Both compelling and brutal to watch. Don't expect fast action, loud incidental music (thank goodness) and heroics in this one, but do expect first class acting, harrowing truths, atmosphere and lots of emotion, and have a box of tissues handy. I find it sad that some have given a poor review because they cannot face up to the shameful historic facts that slave owners could ever have stooped to such depravity and violence directed against another human being. Highly recommend this film.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Powerful Stuff, 5 April 2015
By 
Richard Allen (Wellington, Somerset) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 12 Years a Slave [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
I'm old enough to remember the fuss over Roots when it was first broadcast. I sense this film was a similarly important experience for a later generation of Americans. Perhaps slightly ill-advisedly, we chose this for a Saturday evening's relaxed entertainment. It's very powerful stuff, and pretty unrelenting. The acting and filmmaking is exceptional and the brutality and lack of humanity is compellingly portrayed. As a film it's pretty much faultless, and necessary viewing, but don't expect an easy time.
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68 of 79 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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79 of 95 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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ponderous telling of a remarkable story, 24 Nov. 2014
By 
Lendrick (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: 12 Years a Slave [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
A film with a mighty reputation, that felt a bit disappointing. The story of Solomon Northup's abduction and exploitation as a slave for 12 years is indeed a remarkable one. However, McQueen opts to tell it in a languorous style with many long close ups of Chiwetel Ejiofor and lot of shots of beautiful southern scenery. There is ironically little sense though of the passage of time, or the sheer relentless drudgery that must have made up so much of the experience of being a slave.

I am old enough to remember Roots on TV in the 1970s and the is nothing really new here in the depiction of slavery, While with the focus on one man, no sense of the bigger picture.

It's impossible not to be moved by Solomon's story, Ejiofor does a fine job of portraying a man holding back to keep himself alive. It is beautify shot, with a fine score reminiscent of Góreckis Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. But foe me it is a bit to ponderous and predictable to be a really great film.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story on many levels, 22 Sept. 2014
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A very dramatic and well told and very ghastly story illuminating a terrible period of British and then American history through the particular plight of a well educated man who is tricked, kidnapped and sold into slavery. It is richly told, with many themes to ponder upon as the main character is bullied by various psychopaths into moral choices between dreadful options, which become more upsetting when one learns at the end of the film that . . . well, I won't give it away.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I don't know how any human being can treat another like that because of their colour, 17 Oct. 2014
This review is from: 12 Years a Slave [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
A lovely film but very frightening. It made me absolutely cringe when the slave masters kept beating the men and woman with a whip. I don't know how any human being can treat another like that because of their colour. But then it was like that in the 1800s. Thank goodness they bought in a law to abolish all of it, and treat both black and white people as equals!
it has a very good story line and is easy to understand. I think that everyone should see this film.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I knew I wouldn’t be able towatch again for some time, 4 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: 12 Years a Slave [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
A solemn reminder of the sinister, darker side of humanity, where morals are discarded and sensibility is lost. It was one of those films, that after watching, I knew I wouldn’t be able to watch again for some time. It’s not often I let the DVD player run right to the end of the credits, but for this film I did. It simply had too powerful an effect. It takes more than a moment’s reflection to digest the true horrors it represents. Have a watch.
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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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