on 25 May 2014
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.
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
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.
on 14 January 2014
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.
on 12 January 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.
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.
on 2 May 2016
OK... on a serious note... By 1841, the British Empire had banned the world wide slave trade. It did this, because if Britain didn't have free labour, nobody else would. Britain was the first slave nation to ban slavery throughout it's Empire, and, the fact that Britain was the first industrial nation, workers worked better when paid wages. Britain also had the biggest navy in the world, which meant it could stop what was known as "The Middle Passage". That being, the shipping of Africans from Africa, to the New World. What does this have to do with this film? EVERYTHING. Because America could not import enough slaves, the salve owners resorted to kidnapping free black people from the Northern free states. One being Solomon Northup. And this is his story.
Let me say that slavery was and still is an evil social-economic system, that has been in use for 1,000s of years. In 1841, half the Russian population were Serfs. That is white people enslaving other white people. So when watching this film, I thought about the slaves of ancient
Roman times, and how they were treated, but, Roman slaves had MORE rights than American slaves. I also thought of the sex slaves of ISIS, and the people trafficking of today. Sadly, slavery is still alive and well all over the world. Needles to say, I hate slavery, no matter where or when it is.
I am British, and I am very proud of of my country and it's people. Yes, we did start the North American slave trade, but we were the first to stop it. Just remember this, more Africans fought for the British against the Americans in the "so-called" American revolution. And those who did, were freed and taken to Canada. Just Google, The Book of the Negroes. I am also proud of the fact that both Steve McQueen and Chiwetel Ejiofor are British. I say this, because this film would be have been s*** if made with a American star and director. If this film was directed by Spike Lee or Steven Spielberg, it would have been an over long "message " movie, with a somewhat happy ending. This film is possible, one the best films of the decade, and easily the best Oscar winner of the last 10 years or more.
Hollywood produces such rubbish these days. Big budget 100 million dollar plus movies, that say nothing about the human condition, where as this (British) film had a relative small budget of 22 million dollars, and will be seen and talked about for many years ahead, more that can be said of the DC and Marvel "franchise" schlock that passes as "entertainment" these days.
A film like this comes only once in a generation, so you will have to wait a long time before you see anything as powerful and as truthful as this.
on 10 May 2016
This was purchased as a gift for my stepfather. He had requested this for his birthday along with some others. I looked up the reviews prior to buying and noted it had very good ratings. I have seen this film myself as I'm a big fan of the actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, I know if he's in a film it will be worth a watch.
12 Years a Slave is a true story of Solomon Northup who is an educated and free black man living in New York during the 1840's. Solomon gets abducted and taken to the south to be sold into slavery. It's a sad story but very well portrayed by an incredible cast. I won't go into details as I don't want to spoil it for people that haven't seen it however I would recommend this
on 15 January 2016
In 1841, the Afro-American violinist Solomon Northup is a free man, living with his wife and children in Saratoga Springs, New York. He is hired by two men for a two-week tour in Washington with their theatrical company. However Solomon is kidnapped and sold as a slave in New Orleans with the nickname Platt. Along twelve years, he works in the plantations and has abusive treatment of his masters, until the day he meets the Canadian abolitionist Bass that promises to send a letter to his family.
Very well directed by Steve Mcqueen (and artist). McQueen's style is slow and penetrating with some long and wordless scenes totally captivating.
As a piece of social history, this movie is simply stunning. The story line was straightforward the entire movie showed a character who persevered in circumstances inconceivable to most and kept going and never lost faith that he would return to his family. Fantastic acting by Chiwetel and Michael Fassbender and with a good supporting cast. It came as no surprise to see Hans Zimmer's name appear on the end credits as he is one of the greatest cinematic composers of all time in my opinion. Nyong'o, and Cumberbatch were brilliant in their roles, The last, but certainly not least, stellar appearance I have already alluded to. Brad Bitt plays a Canadian contract constructor who was instrumental to carrying the message to "the North" that finally led to Northup's rescue.
Overall, "12 Years a Slave" was a great film, certainly worth the awards it will surely receive. Enjoy.
Won 3 Oscars. Another 229 wins & 300 nominations.
on 20 May 2014
A fine film - its plaudits were fairly predictable especially on the basis of the subject matter but - fair enough - it's well done. Blends well the themes of brutality, hope / hopelessness, humanity and a legalistic version of religion. The viewer sees that events are occurring in a land - in a mentality - where there is an inherent blindness to the hideousness of slavery.
So why not 5 stars? No spoilers here, suffice to say that I found the ending a little truncated as was the lead in to that ending.
The certificate of 15 I would also say is good in that it will include more viewers but - beware - it isn't for the faint hearted.
on 19 June 2014
I loved this film, the four stars are just a reflection of the rather abrupt ending and that it left me with a feeling that I wanted to know more of Soloman's life. Sadly the ending was not explored as thoroughly as the rest of the account and, for me, the most important part was added on almost as an after thought. Nonetheless, this is a cracking film and the portrayal of the brutal side of mankind balanced with the need to survive in the face of it is explored very subtly. The postscripts to the film beg an answer to the question of 'What is Freedom?'