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Generally favorable reviews- based on 779 Ratings

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  1. Negative: 77 out of 779

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  1. Oct 18, 2013
    Chiwetel Ejiofor is so impressive in this incredibly intense, visceral film. (When it ended, nobody in my theater moved for a period of time, and there was no round of applause mostly, it seemed, because of the shock of it all. Clapping didn’t seem like the right thing to do.) The fact that we experience the story from the perspective of a kidnapped free man makes the film instantly relatable. I was so happy to have watched all of Tom Fontana’s excellent “Copper” which features an African American civil war veteran doctor living in New York, and all of his family’s struggles in Five Points. Solomon, a New Yorker kidnapped from Washington DC, could be any of us. The Southern landscape as it likely existed in those days provides such a beautiful-yet- eerie backdrop to this movie. What I particularly appreciate the fact that all the shots are confined you never see very far into the distance. There’s never any perspective on things. When the boat transporting the kidnapped south moves, you see the paddlewheels. On the plantations, you see the three or four acres where the slaves live. You never get any aerial shots, which is so effective in giving you a disoriented, lost feel. Even if Solomon wants to escape, he has no idea where the hell he is, and neither do we. The acting in general is uniformly excellent. Fassbender? Wow. Not since Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List has an actor put out so completely for the detestable guy role and to such great effect. Expand
  2. Oct 23, 2013
    Well, here comes the biggest Oscar-fisher of the year. A totally unnecessary film with every star they could have possibly packed in there for exactly that purpose does nothing special with its characters or its plot (pun unintended). It's kind of entertaining, sure, but not in a way that makes you want to watch it again. It's just kind of there and a tad formulaic. It even feels a bit exploitative (it's a film about life in slavery with an astonishing number of recognizable names in it, but no one who really *fits* into the role. "Dirty Pretty Things" portrayed a few similar themes *FAR* better, and the protagonist was even likable. Can we ever get a slavery-victim role that portrays a realistic human, and not just stereotypes of what we were taught in elementary school?) in its portrayal of the time period, and takes the "drama" genre to the breaking point. Expand
  3. Nov 3, 2013
    Beyond the intriguing premise (a man is kidnapped into slavery) this movie goes nowhere. Brutal, repetitive, and pointless. What is the subtext? What is the message? Slavery was bad? No character development, no plot development. Just one graphic depiction of cruelty after another. Brad Pitt's accent is ridiculous.

    Compare this movie to Schindler's List or even Roots and it
    pales in comparison.

    Skip "Twelve Years A Slave" and save yourself an extremely unpleasant 2 hours.
  4. Nov 4, 2013
    Only went to see movie cause wife wanted to. So many stereotypes, excessive brutality and sadism without sufficient redeeming purpose. It's a significant story historically but uncreative, humdrum approach to the subject. Acting of main character is excellent but even then it doesn't feel true feels like a movie made for some "noble" purpose. I prefer Django Unchained because at least it doesn't try to pretend to be something it isn't. Expand
  5. Nov 1, 2013
    In "12 Years A Slave" there is a scene between Platt/Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Patsy (Lupita Nyong'o that is startling, stark and will have your emotions all over the place. It is one of the very few scenes that delivers all the hype that the movie has promised. All in all I found the movie very disappointing and realize that I am a minority having this opinion.

    There were
    many scenes that director Steve McQueen holds 3-4 beats, if not 1-2 minutes, such as the 'song' by Tibeats (Paul Dano), too long and some photograph like frames, mostly of nature scenes, that combine to make the movie seem excessive diluting those times it should have moved quicker. Moving back and forth in time, instead of telling the story in a straight line, doesn't add anything and with repeating scenes, once again, elongates the story that would have been stronger if shorter.

    The acting is certainly first rate though Michael Fassbender should be getting a lot more attention for his role as plantation/slave owner Edwin Epps, frightening in his drunken evilness. As Platt/Solomon, the freeman, who is kidnapped and sent to the south as a slave, Ejiofer carries the burden of the film as a victim who refuses to be one though at times he seems to be too passive as an actor, not a slave, for how he overcomes all that is thrown at him.

    The rest of the cast, mostly cameos by Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson and Alfre Woodard are effective though when Brad Pitt appears it takes you out of the movie because it is Brad Pitt.

    There is nudity, none gratuitous, violence and cruelty, though except for the scene mentioned in the first paragraph and an attempted lynching scene of Northup, very little of it hit me emotionally

    Based on a true story about, and book written by, Northup and the publicity he received it is questionable that how and/or where he died is unknown.

    Comes award time the movie and actors will be up for many awards but the bottom line for me is that I won't recommend it.
  6. Oct 20, 2013
    According to Solomon Northup's "Twelve Years a Slave," he tells a true story about a free black man was bondage for twelve years. Steve McQueen ("Hunger" and "Shame") has directed his true masterpiece of an African American citizen from Saratoga, New York was kidnapped by two strangers and he was forced into slavery from 1841 through 1853. Chiwetel Ejiofor, who portrays as Solomon Northup, plays a wonderful performance and the cast did an excellent job including, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Brad Pitt. Mr. McQueen shows the entire film of taking back in time of where Solomon Northup was kept in slavery with possible events like he has to command orders by working, he needs to survive while he's on control, and he stands himself to face opportunity for becoming a slave. This film is amazing true event about a free black man was bondage in twelve years. It's a powerful, emotional, and gripping movie I ever seen and it's one of the best year's of 2013! Thanks to Steve McQueen for creating an inspiring movie and it tells a great message about a survival became slavery for his past journey. Expand
  7. Nov 3, 2013
    This film is purely exploitative, made to take advantage of people's emotions by reminding them of a terrible and tragic time in history. But as I took a look back and thought of this film objectively, I stand by this opinion. Absolutely dreadful acting by a good majority of the cast; even worse the cast was filled with stars so the acting should have been top notch. The overall development of the plot was terrible. It felt as if they just wanted drama for the sake of drama. Almost every scene had dramatic sequences amplified so much, to the point where I couldn't think of an even worse synonym for the phrase 'absolute horror'. And yes, they did have a few rather convincing and emotional parts, however, nearly all of the film was so unintelligible and lacking of any credibility, that those few parts become distant memories linked to ideas of what the film COULD have been. The real drama was what my eyes had to endure. It pretty much sealed my opinion of Steve McQueen; a highly overrated director that shouldn't have even attempted to do a film like this. Expand
  8. Oct 21, 2013
    This year's supposed Oscar front runner is a well crafted but brutalising drama about slavery that certainly makes you comprehend the horror of it all. Not quite the masterpiece that I was hoping for but good never the less. Steve McQueen's direction has the scope of an epic but the feel is really quite intimate. The writing is so wonderful that at times it feels almost poetic and the actors articulate every word to perfection. Period detail is also tops and the cinematography is just ravishing in its beauty, possibly the best I have seen this year so far. The Music also, which has a similarity to McQueen's 'Shame', adds gravitas.

    Amongst a veritable feast of performances only Brad Pitt's indifferent turn fails to hit the mark. I was particularly impressed with Paul Dano (always a good baddie) as Benedict Cumberbatch's power obsessed over seer; Michael Fassbender as the cruel plantation owner; Sarah Paulson as his cold and jealous wife and Lupita Nyong'o as the tragic Patsey. In the lead role as Solomon, kidnapped from his home and sold into slavery for 12 years, Chiwetel Ejiofor conveys with frustration and anger the injustice of the situation in which he finds himself. It is a subtle and impressive performance which culminates in a well earned emotional pay of when he and his family are finally re-united. In all honesty it is only a slight over length and minuscule repetition that prevents this important story from achieving true movie greatness.
  9. Oct 27, 2013
    More than I expected. Definitely an oscar-worthy movie! Although it was really graphic at times it never felt forced or unrealistic. I fully recommend this movie but can understand other people complaining about not being the type of film to watch more than once. It is pretty intense and draining.
  10. Oct 19, 2013
    Despite a melodramatic Hans Zimmer score, the worst kind of Hollywood fanfare imaginable for this tender piece of cinema, McQueen elegantly crafts 12 Years a Slave. His camera floats through fields of cotton like a ghost, lingers on the edge in wide shots as death hangs in the air, or races from character to character as intensity builds and blood flows from the backs of the innocent. His impulse is to move in towards Ejiofor's tearful eyes, reflecting action through a lens rather that simply showing it for gratuitous pleasure. There's much of Solomon's predicament that McQueen's film never quite penetrates, classist issues and relationships formed while surviving plantation life. But as an exercise in emotion, 12 Years a Slave is unflinching and artful. It's the closest we'll come to living out and feeling this tragedy. Director Steve McQueen's eye is better than his sense of pacing in the nevertheless devastating drama 12 Years a Slave, featuring a standout performance from Serenity's Chiwetel Ejiofor. Expand
  11. Nov 5, 2013
    Wildly ambitious but restrained, 12 YEARS A SLAVE is an absolutely astonishing accomplishment. That rare mainstream work that draws us in through a character's strict POV but makes a huge statement and while examining a system of slavery built on torture, brutality and greed. 12 YEARS A SLAVE is a major work that should be required viewing for all human beings. It's that good.
  12. Nov 1, 2013
    I just finished viewing 12 years a Slave, and i have to say the movie was very compelling, and it donned on me that although they talk about the underground railroad during Black History (mostly in February for those that don't get this information or just footnoted in certain schools), they don't talk much if at all about Human Trafficking of African American during the time of slavery, which if even 10% of this account of Solomon Northup is true is astonishing to me. How is this man not a celebrated Hero (Not just African American but of all Americans in general).

    A lot of Critics that i have read said that Brad Pitt's role as Bass in the film was very small. I completely disagree, He greatly shows the contrast and contradiction in the Failed logic of slavery, and the dehumanization of it. He's one of the few white men with great conviction and honor in the film since he is based of an actual person i guess in real life too. Although is on screen time was very short is impact was great.

    What the film really does is show the plight of people (both black and white) during this time. Although clearly the Slaves get the worst end of it. It was indeed Solomon Northup's story, but it show's white southerner in circumstances that are beyond their control due to their station, and as much as some would like to change things they simply can't because the system set forth is too great. This is manifested in several different ways, and the actors did an amazing job portraying there frustration for the situation they found themselves in. Mentally what the slaves had to endure, is completely unfathomable, this is apparent in several scenes throughout the film, just to endure the situations they are put in, it's clear they have to detach themselves and do the most unspeakable things to survive. Eliza whom you meet in the beginning of the film, and Mistress Shaw are great examples.

    To me this is America, this is what this country was built on, there are several ideal that still hold true today, as convoluted and as sick as they were then. This is an amazing film i would suggest people go see it. WARNING, there are scenes that are really tough to watch, but don't turn away. Chiwetel Ejilor, Lupita Nyong'o, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, Brad Pitt, all have standout performances.
  13. Dec 25, 2013
    For such charged subject matter, this film is a snooze. The script is laughably eloquent and unbelievable, the direction is plodding and slow paced, the acting (with the exception of Lupita Nyongo as Patsey) is adequate at best. The movie needs about 30 minutes edited out of it to be watchable, for that matter the editing itself is unskilled and sophomoric. Don't even get me started on the overblown soundtrack. This film shouldn't even be nominated for a best film or best actor or best director Oscar. But it will be, because everyone would be afraid not to vote for it since it deals with slavery and just like the Holocaust a film about this subject will be revered whether it's good or not. I think Steve McQueen might very well be the most overrated director today. Boooooring! Expand
  14. Feb 21, 2014
    the movie message is slavery is bad. For two hours it hammers that message with a sledge hammer till the head ache from all of the excess noise in form of superb but ultimately useless star appearance, needless violence and sexual abuse is unbearable.
    It all has been done before and better. complete misuse of excellent cast.
  15. Oct 19, 2013
    This is one those movie experiences where it's just so good, but it's just incredibly tough to watch! It's such a moving experience. It was filled with tremendous acting, especially from Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender! Plus it showed a great direction coming from Steve McQueen! Overall, it's one of the most powerful movies I've ever seen! Fair warning though, watch at your own risk.
  16. Nov 3, 2013
    12 Years A Slave showed us one of the ugly page of american history, and does so realistically with high degree of drama. Acting as well as writing in this movie is oscar worthy! But it's not perfect, some scenes are better be cut off, some characters are pointless! Overall it's great but depressing picture
  17. Nov 2, 2013
    "12 years A Slave" is beautifully written with well crafted performances from the actors and actresses bringing the script to life. The film is brilliant and powerful, reminding audiences what this nation was built upon and how it shaped the course of history. Some scenes in the film was so painful to watch, it was hard to look at the screen. The performances of each actors from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Paul Giamatti, Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o was so moving and believable that audiences can feel every bit of the suffering, loss and despair the characters they portrayed. This is definitely going to be the movie to remember of the year and easily a contender for Best Picture, Directing and Cast. Expand
  18. Nov 3, 2013
    Why? Why on God's green Earth did this masterpiece get the same user score as the movie "Happy Feet." This is a flawless interpretation of slavery and the culture that African and African-American people experienced during the U.S.'s years of black oppression. The acting is astounding, story unexpected (likely, considering the movie is an adaptation of a true story) and all in all the film comes out leaving you speechless with any peer you may or may not view the film with. This is an utterly exceptional movie that gives you possibly the best and most accurate film adaptation of slave life. This movie will, without a doubt, stay in my eyes as one of the most powerful movies I've ever seen. Expand
  19. Nov 10, 2013
    This is a a very we'll done movie. Has a lot of good actors, they fit the characters perfectly. Also it being a true movie makes it a good movie for the whole family. But I'd say 14+ with adult supervision.
  20. Dec 27, 2013
    Everything you already knew about slavery but didn't bother to ask because you already knew it. Cliche riddled, melodramatic and devoid of subtlety. On the plus side it is well shot.
  21. Oct 26, 2013
    The actors in this film did their job to a T. I felt the director filmed the rape and sex scenes tastefully where they did not take away story. Yes, rape is not tasteful. But, instead of me sitting crying in pain for the victim, I was crying for the overall plight of victim. Rape was just one layer of the violation she had to endure.

    The overall view of slavery seem tame compared to
    the reading of slave journals. This movie has violence. Oh, yes violence. But, the Roots tv series seemed more violent than this movie. Also, the northern states relationships of white and blacks seemed to have a 'modern' take in my opinion.

    In the end, this movie was very good. I was wept, prayed and hated for 2 hours. A wonderful exercise of the emotional senses.
  22. Nov 9, 2013
    A MUST SEE FILM! One of the best historical films to date. Outstanding performances all around and amazing Special Effects. There were a few people that walked out during some scenes, what a shame!
  23. May 3, 2014
    Awful movie. Poor character development. Flat, dull, uninteresting storyline with awful timing. This movie is very much like Passion of the Christ in exploiting an audience with brutality and guilt but with slavery as the theme rather than the crucifixion. All this movie had going for it was a large cast of big names and names aren't enough to make a movie good.
  24. Dec 3, 2013
    12 Years A Slave is a gripping engrossing film about the era of slavery in America, and how being a free man doesn't matter to slave traders and owners. Chiwetel Ejiofor deserves an Oscar nod for his stunning performance, and many other contenders are in this as well.

    This movie was realistic and engaging at every second. Even the dramatic pauses were worthwhile and definitely not a
    waste of time. The script inferred and hinted at events rather than just plain saying them, and that was genius.

    Overall, this movie makes you think about morals and ethics of humans. I can't fathom how slave owners could be so ruthless and passive about the whipping, selling, labor, etc. that the slaves had to go through. It's films like these that'll make this part of history never repeat itself again.
  25. Dec 5, 2013
    This movie should be shown in schools. This movie can teach and explain better than any other movie has ever. It really hits it out of the park. A great performance all around and my favorite movie of the year so far.
  26. Lyn
    Jan 2, 2014
    Haven't seen all of the year's "best" yet, but cannot imagine that I will see a film better than this one. Although grim and hard to watch at times, it affected me deeply with its combination of intensely awful actions and intensely beautiful cinematography. Chiwitel Ejiofor's performance is stunning. Perhaps the one "off" note was Brad Pitt's turn as the low-key guy who saunters in and acts as savior but I guess somebody had to do it. Expand
  27. Nov 17, 2013
    Po' Patsy.

    12 years a slave is a story about a field named Patsy who collected 500lbs of cotton a day for her Massa', yet she don' got nothing to show for it and no comfort left in the world not even a bar o' soap to wash the gag inducing stank from her supple panthris body. Patsy got a lashin' for leaving the plantation without tellin her Massa' and then her only friend, Solomon gon'
    left her to be a freeman. All in all, all I can say is, po' Patsy, po' Patsy. Expand
  28. Feb 9, 2014
    This film makes The Shawshank Redemption look like King Arthur.

    Never have I been stunned into an emotional silence after watching a film in the theater. Literally. Never. I've come out of films before thinking "My god, that was unbelievable", like when I saw the Lord of the Rings for the first time, but this film just hits you on another level entirely. You sit there after its over,
    wondering if what you'd just experienced was real. The day after, you feel the same. It's like seeing your favourite band live - you have trouble believing it at the time, and you still have trouble believing you ever saw them a week after.

    One of the most vivid depictions of slavery ever put to film with phenomenal performances from Ejiofor and Nyong'o, but the real stand out performance here is Michael Fassbender. Combined with excellent cinematography from Sean Bobbitt, a very tight script by John Ridley, excellent direction by Steve McQueen, beautiful editing by Joe Walker and a great score by Hans Zimmer that greatly marries modern orchestral work with contemporary music, serving to underscore the emotions of the film rather than intrude into the film's actual story.

    While it may not be a film that you can watch repeatedly - I think everyone needs to see this film at least once. A very, very important film.
  29. Nov 20, 2013
    Absolutely great film. Chiwetel Ejiofor's performance as Solomon Northup is absolutely Oscar-worthy, as is Steve McQueen's direction. The film is emotional, dark, and depressing, everything that you would expect in a film on this topic. With 12 Years a Slave, we are presented a tragically true story and given every gory detail, making this film extremelty uncomfortable to watch, but yet, it's massively important. Expand
  30. Nov 8, 2013
    Steve McQueen really didn't show a side to slavery that I had not seen represented before. Many of the scenes played like historical reenactments for the History Channel. Some of the performances were so terrible it was like they shot the rehearsal. Filmically, McQueen relies on the same devices as the directors of torture porn to generate tension. If you like melodrama with a side of gristle, this is your movie. If you want something with a lot more depth and originality, look elsewhere. Expand
  31. Feb 4, 2014
    '12 Years a Slave' amazes with its attention to detail and authenticity regarding the lives led by slaves. It was well researched and refrained from creating drama to add spice.

    From the very first scene, McQueen wastes no time in plunging us into the daily, ordinary lives of black slaves of the nineteenth century Deep South. Interlaced with the present story that we're being shown
    where the protagonist, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), is already a slave, a series of flashbacks flesh out his previous life as a free man in the North. He has a wife and kids, and leads a normal life just like the white people who surround him. He is introduced to people who promise him good income as a violinist in the capital. He agrees and leaves his family behind in New York for an intended period of two weeks. He is lulled into a false sense of security and drinks more than he should have. When he wakes up he finds himself in chains confronted by men who insist on calling him a slave.

    I got the impression that those of the African extraction who were born free are inherently different from those who were born into slavery. They think and speak freely and have a different view to life. Those who were born into slavery seem to have embraced their fate. There was an interesting scene where a slave walks into a shop and stares in amazement at Northup when he was a free man in New York.

    Paul Giamatti plays a slave-trader who has them stand naked as potential customers roam about and inspect them before making a purchase. He divides children from their mothers without a second thought. It is here that Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) buys Northup. McQueen doesn't take it easy on the children we have seen just because we might have developed sympathy for them, for to do so would be a gross betrayal to the ones whose stories no one narrated and their anguish never revealed, and to keep them safe would suggest that this was the norm where in reality it might have been an exception.

    John Tibeats (Paul Dano) comes across as someone who never might have thought about the ethics of slavery once in his life. He is instantly recognizable. There are a lot of people like him who go about their lives without letting their thoughts stray into areas that demand serious discussions like philosophy, the arts, poverty, war etc. They came into this world to lead their lives like sheep, eating well, wearing and spending extravagantly, and having a general good time. If they were picked up and dropped into a time when slavery was legal, they would not once flinch or utter a word against it as long as they belonged to the group that was doing the slaving. Tibeats resents the fact that Ford has grown fond of Northup, and the latter's quick wit and high words offend him.

    Northup's next owner, Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), puts him to picking cotton in the fields with his other slaves. He derives his own interpretations from the Bible sanctioning slavery, and lashes them accordingly. Sometimes he has them brought into the house in the middle of the night and dance around. Epps's wife is jealous of a slave girl and abuses her constantly. She can't seem to grasp the fact that if her husband paid special attention to a slave, it was his fault and not the latter's. She constantly threatens the slaves and taunts her husband to be more tough on them to keep them in line. When she offers them respite, she expects gratitude. Husband and wife bring the worst out of each other. But Epps is the epitome of psychopathy. He bullies with his every word. It is a constant struggle for Northup not to incite anger and have his master lunge at him with murderous intention.

    Deaths among the slaves happen without any alarm being raised. Some of the black people have had it easy on them courtesy of their owners. They even had servants and slaves serving them in a few cases. Northup becomes a part of the community, but he still tries to reach his family and friends somehow to inform them about his situation. He trusts in someone who betrays him, and barely escapes death. Northup is finally able to reunite with his family, but not before we witness possibly some of the worst scenes of barbarity displayed anywhere on film.

    At moments the score is so quiet it's almost imperceptible, but complements the scenes perfectly. The production design and costume design paints a vivid picture of the time. There's a simplicity and mundaneness to everything from the way the slaves toil everyday to their time spent privately. The film was edited with ingenuity. Both narratives develop side by side and complement each other. Instead of a beginning where we might have wondered when Northup was going to be banged up, we see him as a slave from the very first shot. And the flashbacks only come when they are relevant to the present story. Northup's character development was palpable and poignant.

    McQueen has promoted himself to the A-list with this masterpiece of the highest order.
  32. Nov 16, 2013
    12 Years A Slave is a gripping engrossing film about the era of slavery in America, and how being a free man doesn't matter to slave traders and owners. Chiwetel Ejiofor deserves an Oscar nod for his stunning performance, and many other contenders are in this as well.

    This movie was realistic and engaging at every second. Even the dramatic pauses were worthwhile and definitely not a
    waste of time. The script inferred and hinted at events rather than just plain saying them, and that was genius.

    Overall, this movie makes you think about morals and ethics of humans. I can't fathom how slave owners could be so ruthless and passive about the whipping, selling, labor, etc. that the slaves had to go through. It's films like these that'll make this part of history never repeat itself again.
  33. Oct 26, 2013
    The problem with this amazing and unforgettable film is that it is comprised of unendurable and unrelenting human suffering. Because there is no relief for our hero-slave from beginning to almost the very end, it lacks a certain credibility. After the unrelieved cruelty that comes in a horrific procession from one scene to the next, we wonder, why was every single white human in this film corrupt, vicious,and cruel beyond imagination? So, Oscars will be awarded and rightly so, but I am warning my friends to think twice before enduring a movie that's so hard to watch. Expand
  34. Nov 23, 2013
    Steve McQueen truly composes his magnum opus; a film of gut-wrenching realism that emphasizes the horrors of slavery. Truly, supreme acting, a beautiful score, and culturally accurate detail that could have fooled you that McQueen had been there himself.
  35. Jan 14, 2014
    12 minutes into the movie (no pun intended) and I already knew I would be bored. A star studded movie that is not the least bit entertaining. After an hour I gave up and realise that the only reason this movie is alive is because of some exemplary acting.
  36. Feb 28, 2014
    This review of “Twelve Years a Slave” is late in coming since I, like many others, was reluctant to see it because of its raw and powerful displays of brutality. After all, the film experience should be pleasurable and something to enjoy. Nevertheless, I took the opportunity to view the film on a DVD a friend generously loaned to us. As I watched the film my concerns were indeed realized for some of the scenes were certainly uncomfortable to watch. However It was worth the 10 or 15 total minutes of discomfort to be able to be artistically exhilarated as we saw inhumanity and dignity oppose each other in what was the then mentality and norm of the slave genre and the society that embraced it. The acting of Chiwitel Ejifor, the writing of John Ridley and the direction of Steve McQueen make this a rewarding theatrical experience which the viewer will find difficult to forget or even equal. The film tells the true story of Solomon Northup, a cultured and well respected African American northerner, who is kidnapped and then sold into slavery by his abductors and ends up spending 12 years on one or more southern plantations. It’s easy for an audience member, black or white, to identify with the lead character and that is what makes the film work so well. Massive suffering among thousands is a broad and almost meaningless phrase when compared to describing the plight of one individual. It is something the viewer can more readily identify with and understand. I give this film a 9. To those who may still be reluctant to see it, think of it as historical medicine. It will enrich your minds and help us understand even more the oppression and bigotry that once infected our nation. Expand
  37. Jan 25, 2014
    This movie is just torture porn masking as art. It asks no questions and really doesn't make any social comment. All it does is elaborately illustrate the human capacity for cruelty, ignorance and sadism - but from the safe vantage point of a couple of centuries' distance from the cruelty's context. Zero Dark Thirty asked a question: what if we had spent all that money, effort and talent on, say, decreasing our dependence on foreign oil, rather than a single manhunt? Prisoners asked a question: even if torture seems the only option, what can it do to us if we use it? Even Her asks questions, about our relationships to machines and each other. 12 Years A Slave simply pushes our fear buttons. All of us have an engine in us of past injustices that we can draw on at a moment's notice. 12 Years just puts gas in that tank. If you're going to make a movie that simply says "this is an atrocity," than why not make it about one occurring on our planet right now, that we can possibly still do something about? Because that would be taking sides, and would make some people uncomfortable. There is a form of entertainment where useless righteous indignation is stoked for its own sake. For that to work we must all be in agreement. Nazis, child molesters and slave owners. Those are the only boogeymen we can all still agree on. Think about the movies getting the most praise at award's season. Two of them deal with historical accounts of racism. Three if you count the Mandela biopic. Mud is a much better film than Dallas Buyer's Club, but Dallas Buyer's Club depicts (without saying anything new about) homophobia, decade's old misconceptions about AIDS and a bit of Big Bad Drug Industry for good measure. Plus McConnaughey lost weight for the role. So that's what gets the attention. One is more gentle and thought provoking. One triggers our fear. So that's the "issue" movie. Even Philomena takes a swipe at the catholic church's cruelty masking as piety (again, using the vehicle of a many decade's old instance of systematic abuse).

    Anyway, 12 Years made me very uncomfortable. But not morally uncomfortable. Just uncomfortable at the sense the director was getting off on all that CGI blood spatter and whipping and hanging scenes that carry on far longer than needed to make their point. Points for nice cinematography. Hans Zimmer essentially reprises one of his themes from Inception in the score. Ejiofor is perfect. Brad Pitt is tone deaf as ever, but he produced the thing so...
  38. Feb 13, 2014
    12 Years a Slave is probably the film that portrayed more accurately the subjet of slavery. Compare it with Django Unchained is nonsense, because the goal of Tarantino was show and evaluate vengeance in the hands of a slave. In contrast 12 Years a Slave seeks to exhibit the life of slaves, seeming more a documentary that a fiction movie. That is why the idea is not to feel sorry for the protagonist or to cheer for him, it is simply to learn about this topic and do not forget of what we did in the past. The only problem of this film is lack of message, besides showing what was slavery and that is not escape from it, there is not much below. Although if McQueen wanted to have something below, it would not be possible to make the movie like a documentary. Despite all that McQueen gives us an excellent job, the script is also very good, the cast is amazing, specially Ejiofor, Fassbender and Cumberbatch, but Lupita Nyong'o surprised me a lot. Expand
  39. Oct 27, 2013
    Harrowing, grotesque, earnest, and featuring perfect performances from Ejiofor, Fassbender, and Nyong'o, Steve McQueen's "12 Years A Slave" is an unwaveringly powerful look at the darkest depth of humanity.
  40. Dec 13, 2013
    Incredible film. Steve McQueen displays proficiency as a filmmaker in this masterfully crafted and brutal look at slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives one of the most compelling performances in cinema history, giving a multi-layered portrayal of the daily horrors suffered by his character. Other performances from Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o deserve recognition for the amount of sophistication brought to these roles. Not to mention that the cinematography and sets for this film were amazing. This is a movie that deserves to be seen, and is easily the best so far this year. Expand
  41. Jan 25, 2014
    12 years a slave was a brilliant film. The film was so well done the acting was great the directing was great, the story was interesting and in intense scenes the tension was held brilliantly. It is Overall a great film 10/10
  42. Jan 17, 2014
    This is easily one of the greatest films I've ever seen, and in my eyes competes for my personal number 1, which is The Shawshank Redemption. 12 Years A Slave follows the incredible story of Solomon Northup as he is torn away from his free life and family, and forced into slavery. The entire film is a cinematic masterpiece, and will leave you in silence upon finishing it, simply due to the realism and shock of it all. Steve McQueen has taken this true story and provided it with complete justice in a movie form, and he had no intentions of making light scenes. Each and every scene of this movie is full of emotion and the actors/actresses portray their feelings outstandingly well, I'd be very surprised if Chiwetel Ejiofor didn't win an award for playing the role of Solomon Northup. Unlike typical movies which are full of soundtracks and constantly changing scenes flashing before your eyes, this movie sets a very silent and extended form of scenery. There are moments in the film where all you are seeing is Solomon's face with nothing but silence, and it causes you to really read and understand the emotion in his face. The brutal scenes in which the slave's 'masters' are punishing them are also extremely powerful, and you as the audience are forced to witness prolonged scenes of horrific torture, the reality of it really does hit you hard. What I like about this film is the way it focuses so closely upon a handful of characters. The scope of the scenes never goes beyond Solomon, or the cotton farm in which the majority of the film is set in. By following the characters so closely, and portraying their emotions throughout, you develop an extremely sympathetic bond with the Solomon and his co-slaves, which very few movies I've seen can do. If you are reading this and haven't seen 12 Years a Slave, you must see it. The film does take a bit of stomach to watch, and you should also be prepared for the shock and reality of it, but in my eyes it is a must see. Personally, I think this is the sort of film which will go down in history as one of the greatest of all time, and the ending (which I wont spoil) is particularly moving.

    10/10 for me, and I'm very picky about movies.
  43. Oct 25, 2013
    More an "important" film than a "great" film (but a VERY important almost great film). The acting is very good (and sometimes even great Lupita Nyong'o should win an Oscar for best supporting actress), and the direction is competent. What carries the film is the actual narrative that Solomon Northrup provided over a century and half ago. An amazing true story that makes me sit in a theater as an American and consider my country both how far we've come but how much we obscure. Slavery, though, is ultimately a human narrative and not a national narrative, and I deeply respect what all the people in this film intend to make mass audiences reflect on. Expand
  44. Nov 22, 2013
    Great movie. My only complaint is that they couldn't use all the stories from the book. Some people criticizing the movie seem to have a problem with history. This wasn't made for Hollywood. it is based on true life. Sorry if that makes you uncomfortable. Brad Pitt's character speaks basically straight from the book text.
  45. Jan 31, 2014
    Once again Hollywood waves its sanctimonious wand over history with this glossy movie about slavery in the United States. Like a self-righteous teetotaler telling off an alcoholic, it is a sentimental, holier-than-thou piece that challenges you to criticize it or ´you’re a racist too´. Following in the footsteps of Django it uses the excuse of history and a worthy theme to justify gratuitous scenes of violence.

    The film begins in the home of the central character, Solomon Northop, a free black man, who lives a genteel life with his family in New York. The director is clearly eager to get to the gory bits though, and within the first ten minutes Solomon has been kidnapped, enslaved, and the audience is cringing under a close up of his contorted face during a twenty minute whipping scene; the first of many to come.

    The film continues in this vein, as we follow Solomon’s journey through an array of increasingly evil slave-owners. There is a segregation of personality in the film, with most of the black characters being good and moral and the white ones evil. Surely it is as patronizing and insulting to assume personality is dependent on colour as it is politically correct. At least the same cannot be said of gender, the white women are as evil as their male counterparts. However no film about slavery is complete without our token good white guy, and Brad Pitts rises to the occasion, strolling in bearded and ready to play, once again, the hero.

    One does wonder why Solomon doesn´t send a letter under his ´mistress´name on one of his frequent forays to the shop. (Of course, his one attempt to run away is thwarted when after two steps he stumbles on a lynching scene). Perhaps the point the director is trying to make is that Solomon is too broken and scared to do this. He is too proud, however, to pick the cotton quota demanded by the sadistic slave-owner. A necessary contradiction perhaps, as this allows more whipping scenes as he is punished daily.

    Or why, instead of trying and failing to write a letter with a blunt bamboo stick and watery juice, he doesn´t simply use the candle end and stain the paper instead. But it is not a film for the details. Nor the historical overview.

    It is two hours of increasing brutality, culminating with a horrendous scene where one girl is whipped until her flesh is exposed. Instead of taking one of the many examples of modern day slavery however, which could leave people feeling guilty at inaction, it is set far enough in the past that it allows the audience to do their cinema time, and leave feeling as worthy and sanctimonious as the director.
  46. BKM
    Nov 20, 2013
    While I don't think that it's quite the masterpiece that it's being hailed as, Steve McQueen's take on one of the darkest chapters in American history is fascinating never the less. The depiction of the horrific lives led by slaves has rarely,if ever, been captured with so much honesty and complexity. The performances are exceptional, particularly Fassbender as the sadistic plantation owner who embodies all of the malice and hatred that allowed such an unspeakable era to forever scar our collective consciousness. Expand
  47. Nov 4, 2013
    This is a movie after the book with the same name by Solomon Northup It is a story of a free black man from New York state who was kidnapped and sold into slavery.

    This is a great movie, intense and very well done. Plenty of graphic and cruel details which would make it hard to watch for some. But we have to know our history. The movie is somewhat un-even, some scenes are better than
    others. So, I do not give it 10 but 9 out of 10.

    This is one of the best movies of the year so far.
  48. May 24, 2014
    There is maybe one or two scenes that showcase the real artistic strength of this movie, but for the most part, it puts me to sleep. The dialogue is outrageously unrealistic.The definition of an over hyped film.
  49. Apr 6, 2014
    From all the good movies of 2013 that I have seen, I have a trouble to find a worse one.
    I understand how important this subject is, especially in the US, but there are other ways to popularize the abolitionism than giving the best picture prize to a mediocre movie. But maybe it's a best mean to bring an idea to the popcorn-fed audience.

    The story starts good, but later the potential
    is wasted. The movie is surprisingly shallow and predictable. Almost all tense moments are brutal scenes. And an overdose of scenes when the camera shows nothing but people starring somewhere(which I guess were meant to provoke some reflections) is just annoying.

    If there was a category "the most politically important subject", maybe this movie could take a prize, but the best picture? This is wrong, and the academy has lost once and for all its credibility. Not to mention the prize for the best actress in the supporting role.
  50. Feb 28, 2014
    It's always interesting to see a movie based on real events. Some of them are breathtaking, so it is but in a heart-wrecking way. It is not like someone who lost at sea for months or someone who trapped on an island for years. It is slavery, very cruel and harsh form of torture that takes one's freedom away.

    This true story occurred back in 1841, nearly 170 years ago. A New Yorker
    Solomon Northup, a born-free black American was kidnapped and sold into slavery. So his journey into the dark world begins after he was assigned to work in various fields. It was incredible and unbelievable sad journey of those 12 years till he gets his freedom back.

    After the movie 'Shame' Steve McQueen retained his favourite actor Michale Fassbender to play in a prominent role for the third time for this historical epic drama. As usual, he became the ambassador to McQueen's movie along with great performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor. The movie was captured in beautiful places of Louisiana. The unknown supporting cast was also given great support with their small roles in the story.

    It was a good adaptation, but dialogues were very weak. There's no strong lines said anywhere in the movie or any memorable and rememberable. I believed the movie transformed exactly as the book says, I mean the original edition one. This movie is not appreciable for its contents because it was evilfull, but for bringing back the truth to the todays audience. It was acknowledgeable hard work for the cast and crew. So this movie will be recognised in big stages that mean the Oscar is not far away to fetch for McQueen and Chiwetel.
  51. Jan 4, 2014
    This is breathtakingly well made with top notch performances up and down the cast, but without a doubt the toughest film to watch of the year. The horrific things done to these people and the way Steve McQueen unflinchingly shows them makes this a must see at least once. A
  52. Jan 22, 2014
    Probably the most powerful film I've ever seen. The directing is absolutely spot on and the acting is world class. I can't really say too much about this film because I don't want to ruin it, but anyone who wants to watch it I highly recommend it. I can tell this is a film which we'll all still be talking about in 10-20 years time.
  53. Jan 21, 2014
    There is very little I can say about this film that hasn't already been said: The acting is easily the best of this year, maybe even of the last decade, the story is effectively gut & heart-wrenching, and Steven McQueen brings just the right amount of visual panache and gritty realism to do the story justice. I cried. I cried every time I saw it.

    It's about time American cinema stopped
    being afraid of our history with Slavery. And while that description isn't perfect (Steve McQueen is british, after all), it definitely signals a HUGE step in the right direction. There are demons everywhere, and this film is unafraid to throw its main character into the heart of darkness Northup actually experienced.

    It may be hard to stomach at times, but every American (at least) should see this movie. It is a masterpiece.
  54. Nov 23, 2013
    A masterpiece.

    This movie is an affirmation of the power that can come from oppression, as well as to possess the power of resolve and determination. It represents a major part of the American experience.
  55. Feb 12, 2014
    Another soon-to-be Oscar winner that is a glossed over representation of actual events in history, this film felt like it took 12 years to get through. Do yourself a favour and go see Saving Mr. Banks instead.
  56. Jan 27, 2014
    I was extremely tired and sleepy when I decided to watch de movie. When I finished, the last thing on my mind was my bed. The amazing job of Steve McQueen on making the film the most shocking as possible attached me to the screen from the beginning to the end of the story.
  57. Jan 28, 2014
    The film was weak (except for the brutal whipping scene) and not worth my cinema fee. I felt it was more likened to something made for TV rather than a movie. The TV Roots" saga was much more impressive and the acting was better too. To be honest..... I was rather bored
  58. Feb 20, 2014
    Had to write a riposte to the handful of reviewers leaving very low scores for this movie. One man's food and all that aside, the performances, script and cinematography couldn't possibly warrant such critical reviews. One reviewer (Englishrose), sees the movie as presenting a challenge to criticise it or (sic - and) be condemned a racist, and lambasts McQueen for gratuitous violence. This misses the point. The violence is indeed brutal, and the threat of it, at least, relentless, but not without reason. It is necessary in portraying the barbaric nature of the antebellum slavery in its attempts to dehumanise a people.

    The reviewer complains that the film plunges too quickly into the risky details, but we learn enough about Solomon to establish the character pre his ordeal. Condensing twelve years of slavery into a couple of hours requires keen editing. Besides, the reviewer's sense of time is a bit dubious in remembering a beating scene as twenty minutes long, which was in fact only several minutes.

    The director is censured by these reviewers for its oversimplified depiction of of white men as evil and black as good, but the reality is far more complex. The story is not so much a collective disparaging of white people as a sobering tale of the cruelty all people are capable of when the law approbates their behaviour.

    There are questions as to why Solomon doesn't attempt an earlier escape, but these simply aren't grounded in reality. When the likelyhood of successful emancipation is so small and the punishments for failed attempts so horrific, it does not take a great leap of imagination to see why so few slaves/captives make a genuine bid for freedom.

    The film will no doubt leave viewers with different feelings, but sanctimoniousness is unlikely to be one of them.
  59. Mar 8, 2014
    The film is lengthy and it did lose me about halfway/three-fourths of the way win but when it had me it had me by the balls. At its best this film is amazing providing one of the most engaging, emotional, and powerful films to come out this year. This movie is a must watch for any film buff. Filmmaking can be an art and with some excellent cinematography you can create some powerful moments and this film does that. Expand
  60. Apr 6, 2014
    Well I expected it to be depressing but how many movies about slavery do we need? Plus there are so many moments where the main character is shown in deep thought and anguish... Yes we get the point he's traumatized but those moments drag on and on. It was tedious, a downer, and way too long.
  61. Mar 1, 2014
    12 Years A Slave is a surprisingly underwhelming movie. It is more of a string of vignettes about several heartless and evil white men (and women) who are just mean without the motivation of running a plantation on their minds. There is very little character development and most of the film relies on what the audience already knows and feels about slavery. There's no feeling of a journey or even time passing. Expand
  62. Mar 14, 2014
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. It takes an emotional toll to watch Steve McQueen’s poignant 2013 BEST PICTURE winner of the Academy awards, adapted from the autobiography of Solomon Northup, a free black man is sold into slavery for 12 years in the antebellum United States.

    As the third feature film from UK auteur Steve McQueen (after HUNGER 2008, 7/10 and SHAME 2011, 9/10), 12 YEARS A SLAVE is a metamorphic achievement for his director competence, comes to grips with the grave source material, and transposes the text into a visually stupefying and inwardly resounding piece of cinematic treasure, compels audience to vicariously undergo the trials and tribulations of Solomon (Ejiofor) and his fellow black slaves, and to corroborate us the price of freedom is hard-won merely 150 years ago, we might say we have far progressed above the stupidity and narrow-mindedness portrays among the white folks in the film, and slavery is rather an antiquated concept, however, whether this self-aware moral improvement has reached its end of line, or 150 years later, when we our progeny harks back, we will be plainly as anachronistic as those pathetic, barbarous and abominable predecessors.

    I digress too far, but I do intend to reiterate the value of this film, not because slavery is obsolete so we contemporaries have no urgency to watch it, in fact, we are in absolute obligation to reflect on those historic iniquity to alert ourselves not to recommit the same error, which we may agree, a large portion of people are treading the same water in the present climate.

    Now, back to the film, McQueen and his team, in particular the long-time DP Sean Bobbitt, are luxuriating in their meticulous composition of each shot, the long-shot of Solomon hung on a tree struggling to life with his toes tipped on the ground while no one care or dare to set him loose (in the background, several slave kids frolicking around) is strikingly daunting to behold, whether white or black, their mentality is ingrainedly impaired; intermittently, the breathtakingly picturesque topographic shots of the southern land (the bayou, the cotton field or the windy woods) seamlessly transition the chronicle into another twist or perturbation.

    The central dramatis personae is electrifying to the core, Ejiofor whole-heartedly radiates in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and every single take lingers on his bubble-eyed physiognomy is unimpeachably soul-stirring, his immaculate dedication oozes Solomon’s despair, angst and persistence. Fassbender, McQueen’s fixed leading man, lends himself to the meaty villain role, the outright racist plantation owner Edwin Epps,the dichotomy of his libido-driven infatuation with the young slave girl Patsey (Nyong’o) and the iron-clad truth she will never be completely his possession, is the centrepiece which culminates in an appalling whipping sequence where McQueen unbendingly fixates on Patsey’s heartbreaking wail and the horrid lacerations, Nyong’o is no doubt meritorious for her Oscar-win with her debut, her final scene when seeing off Solomon to his freedom with both yearning (for herself) and felicity (for him) has been encapsulated with pitch perfect verisimilitude.

    Further on, besides those three Oscar-nominated lucky ones, it is a handful of under-praised but equally memorable performances, Sarah Paulson (Mistress Epps), Alfre Woodard (Mistress Shaw) and Adepero Oduye (Eliza) all steal the limelight when their meagre screen-time is on, Paulson is brilliant with her glacial frigidity and sharp callousness, Woodard nails the most ambiguous role in the film with her composed utterance and Oduye brings about a burst of volcanic theatricality in her tête-à-tête with Ejiofor. By contrast, the other male side players are less prominent, Pitt is the ultimate messiah for Solomon, but reservedly underlit, and Paul Dano is on the verge of being typecast as someone either compulsively creepy or maddening annoying.

    John Ridley’s stern screenplay (the third Oscar win for the film) prunes the prolonged odyssey into a number of key chapters, carves out a clarified narrative arc while enlivening the jaded souls with terse lines full of understated connotations; Hans Zimmer’s score mingles with the movie’s awe-inspiring presentation of a history should never be forgotten, tallies with the credence of viewers’ spontaneity, unobtrusive, but superbly competent alongside this epic voyage, if you can stick to the very end, it is a film can sublimate your moral sentience, and Steve McQueen is a filmic wizard of sublime gravitas, at the age of 45, we can optimistically hope that his best has yet to come.
  63. Jan 16, 2014
    Blown away by this film. ABSOLUTELY BLOWN AWAY! I was expecting a slow and sappy story, but it's intense. The acting, especially a particular scene towards the end, is phenomenal. Micheal Fassbender deserves Best Supporting Actor over Jared Leto (and yes, I have seen Dallas Buyers Club). In 10 years, this movie will end up on AFI's top 100 movies and will probably be at least top 50. It's that good. I warning you though, there are some tough scenes to watch. You may need a tissue box. Expand
  64. Jun 24, 2014
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Isn't it ridiculous that our society went so far to be politically correct that it crossed the line of common sense? If you don't give an Oscar to a film that is about slavery - you are a racist, if you say something positive about Palestine or Iran - you are anti-Semite, if you give a preference to a Caucasian over African American in the U.S. (based on the skills!) - you are a racist again. if you smile to a woman - you are sexually harassing her (wait, gay harassment is coming, so you won't be allows to smile or make jokes to anyone!).

    Look at all the Critic reviews - nearly EVERYONE gave 100%! This just makes them look ridiculous, as they are afraid to even slightly critisize and not to LOVE a movie about slavery.

    The story plot is quite simple: a free black man is sold to slavery and is later saved. But instead of making the movie multi-dimensional, deep and engaging, the story-tellers "communicate" the story through brutality and violence, as if someone on the face of the earth needs a proof that slavery was bad, and as if slaves were used nearly only as punching bags by sadistic white people.

    Seriously, ask yourself: how many times can you re-watch this film? Will you be enjoying it after re-watching? How many times will you be re-watching it? There were several worthy movies nominated for Oscar this year (e.g. The Wolf of Wall Street or even Captain Phillips), but, no, lets be politically correct and to avoid being labeled racist, lets give the Best Picture to a mediocre film about slavery.
  65. Jan 6, 2014
    Excellent visuals and a strength of resisting the urge to squeeze modern politics into this classic tale brings it to the top of 2013. This story is one that may be difficult to watch if you are squeemish and want some superhero to fly in and carry them all away. It is important though, and gives a well rounded view of the times. It also holds back on the stereotypes that plague almost every other movie on this subject matter. Home run. Expand
  66. Apr 20, 2014
    If you are a person who watches movies w/o being critical about the content you see you are probably going to be affected about 12yaSlave. For those who tend to think about what they witness this movie is most likely going to be a let-down. "Well made rubbish" is a term that descripes the movie best. Visual and audio aspects are well-thought supporting the narrative. Dialogue and acting are plausible, no complaiments there. The huge problem is the script itself. This is a movie in which every white man and woman is either a coward, villain or most often a complete psychopat. Except Brad Pitt. The producer rides in as a modern Jesus to save the day in the last minutes of the movie shattering any illusion of realism. Storyline lacks twists and situations to make the flick interesting. Basicly the main characters get flogged for few hours and thats it. New York is a paradise where every1 is happy and educated regardless of their race or backround. Just like today! Ofc this is "based on true story", but as far as i know any story is fictional interpretation of actual events. Thats why they are called stories. Historically the laws allowed atrocities of many kind but I really doubt that the people who owned the slaves could really beat them to death continuously. I mean, the slaves cost thousands of dollars to buy. Feeding and shelter costs. Why beat the workforce to death? Just makes no sense. Also, there was no indication that after the slavery-laws were eradicated the position of blacks actually got even worse, since they became regular workforce who had to provide accommadation and food by themselves.

    Anyways, those who wish to feel bad about things they have no responsibility in may enjoy this movie.
  67. Mar 3, 2014
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Boring movie. (YAWN) I don't know how the one chick won an oscar when she was barely on screen for not even a full 20 minutes. This movie made me wanna punch everyone and where in hell did Brad Pitt come from??? 1/2 before the movie is over he just shows up. Too many scenes where we see dude, staring at who knows what, for way to long. There are better movies about slavery out there. This is not one of them. I don't understand what all the hype is all about. All I know is that I want my minutes back that I wasted on watching this boring film. Expand
  68. Feb 4, 2014
    Es casi una obra maestra, mi unica critica negativa es en los momentos largos de secuencia que muestra
    el sufrimiento y algunas escenas que pueden volverse muy tediosas.
  69. May 25, 2014
    12 Years a Slave was just astounding im at a loss for words of how great of a film this is. Steve McQueen blew me away with this film and if i had seen this in 2013 no doubt would it had been hard to choose between this and Gravity. Luckally i don't have to pick and that 12 Years a Slave has the best chance to be the best movie in 2014.

    Solomon Northup is a well educated free black man
    that lives in Saratoga, New York with his family. While his family is off on a trip he decides to work for these people claiming to work for the circus he has dinner with the two men then starts to get sick they help him to his room as he is passing out. He wakes up after being drugged and is told he is now a slave heading to the south.

    He ends up being sold to a man named Ford (Cumberbatch) a small mill owner. Ford takes a liking to Solomon but soon has to sell him to Edwin Epps(Fassbender) a crual and ruthless man so he can pay off his debt. Years go by and we see Solomon trying to survive but with each day and with everything he sees it get's harder harder for him to go on. Plan after plan of his keeps failing and he starts to think he may never go home.

    The movie is so powerful and the unbelievable acting of Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender make this film a much watch for everyone I guess for some though it can be hard to watch at times. The cinematography from Steve McQueen was amazing and the Score from Hans Zimmer was breathtaking

    Overall i give it a 8.0
  70. Jun 29, 2014
    '12 Years a Slave' has a very brutal plot of realism of our history during this time. All the same, it's unnecessarily brutal, and in the end, pointless. The acting is good, but wasted on a script that has seldom meaning to the actual violence of slavery. Try 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' for a movie, maybe thirty to forty years ago.
  71. Jan 10, 2014
    Oscar-worthy film that is a must see! All actors played their part to perfection, with Fassbender and Ejiofor being the pick of the bunch. Captured the brutality and severity of slavery in 19th Century USA, telling the story of Solomon Northup; a free black man captured and sold onto a plantation. For me the powerful performances and direction makes this an outright masterpiece... I'd even go as far to say I prefare it to Django Unchained! Expand
  72. Nov 23, 2013
    A masterful film filled with disgusting yet beautiful imagery. An all star cast with great performances by everyone. This film is not for the faint of heart.
  73. Nov 29, 2013
    This is one the best movies I have seen this year. I thought the movie did not pander to our at least mine common thoughts about slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofor is a wonderful actor and did a very good job here.
  74. Dec 31, 2013
    By far the most emotionally powerful film of the year. Also with great performances from everyone, especially Michael Fassbender who played a washed up drunk who abused himself along with his innocent slaves. Yes, it is an awkward and touchy subject at times, not just this one, but many others in the past and probably much more to come. However don't go thinking it's "Django Unchained", it is a factual story about a free man who was tricked into slavery through the passing of 12 years. I love movies over time, and that's what the film does, and it's actually kind of beautiful, even if Solomon's path was dark and gruesome. Throughout the film he'll meet terrible people and great people, it sort of reminded me of Forrest Gump because of its passing of time. The spirit, adventure and heart that Solomon has is what keeps him interesting and alive, and he almost feels nurturing. He feels the pain for others and cares about them, he would put himself in risk if it meant helping others. Yes, 12 Years a Slave is one of the best films you'll see this year.

    12 Years a Slave gets 9.3/10
  75. Jan 3, 2014
    It was great movie until they decided Brad Pitt would be the moral hero. If they would have have chosen anyone else there-- better some nobody-- it would have been so much better.
  76. Jan 16, 2014
    This movie is the best of 2013, (while Gravity is my favorite), this movie deserves Best Picture Oscar, the acting is great, Chiwetel Ejiofor was great, and Michael Fassbender is great, now some people complain that the movie is brutal, and that's how it's meant to be, because that's how slavery was in real life, and this movie perfectly captures that emotion, that's why it is a masterpiece, and why it deserves the Oscar. Expand
  77. Jan 16, 2014
    If you have read Uncle Tom's Cabin you know this story though seeing the sadistic cruelty inherent in slavery displayed, and endlessly repeated, on the big screen will be new to you. And that seems to be the point of the movie, according to this British director and mainly British cast. Its a grim movie. Not one that many people will want to see twice. It says nothing new about the subject of slavery and it adds nothing that people who have read about slavery didn't already know. Nice photography though. Expand
  78. Feb 19, 2014
    The film 12 Years a Slave is a modern day masterpiece. Reasons include:
    - superbly acted
    - exquisitely written
    - beautifully shot
    - masterfully directed
    This movie is the total package. I highly recommend seeing it.
  79. Feb 27, 2014
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Boy was I dissapointed with this movie! Plain and simple, boring, 45 minutes too long, character buildup was non-existant, I could care less about these robotic, non emational slaves, did they speak English?Nothing new, been said before with roots, Color Purple wallups this turd in every way!
    Save yourself the money, would not watch this one again,, and no,, it's not because of the hanging or whipping scenes, just does't even come close to living up to the hype.....
  80. Mar 6, 2014
    A shockingly heartbreaking recreation of a true event in the bleak history of nineteenth century American society, McQueen brings this period piece to life, or deprivation thereof, with talented cast performances on both sides of the divide. Soloman Northup, a free African American, is lured by two circus men who promise him work as a musician. However, his whole world is turned upside down when he wakes up in shackles and on the wrong end of the black slave trade. Not a movie for the light-hearted, it features various scenes of black people being tortured, whipped, raped, and forced to stand still with no clothes on while they are inspected and sold off for a price to their new white masters (the proceeds of which they will never see a dime of). The depressing storyline aside, the film emanates with flowing nineteenth century frocks and settings, but it is Chiwetel Ejiofor as a brilliant solo piece that completes the film. We follow him throughout his 12 years as a slave, and his tight-lipped performance brews an emotional storm of helplessness but also hope in those who watch it. Not being able to speak out much, especially in the company of his various overseers, leaves a lot of work to his body language, and he makes it work. I didn't find Lupita Nyong'o as impressive as the Academy did, and Brad Pitt was inserted in seemingly because he just looks good and wanted to be in his own production. I guess we all would if we had the chance. It's an honest film, worth seeing even if just to experience what it means to be free one day and bound and helpless the next. Expand
  81. Apr 1, 2014
    this movie was so boring as compared to all the hyping....I had to watch d movie a all day cus i was'nt felling d movie, i just wanted to b sure i finished d movie, although chiwetel was good.....
  82. Apr 21, 2014
    A great, great film about a free man who is abducted and sold into slavery. It is a very sad tale and shows how racist we used to be and how bad slavery really was. A great cast with many great acting performances. Michael Fassbenders character was crazy and he did a fantastic job with his role. A great movie deserving of the best picture Oscar this year.
  83. May 3, 2014
    It only missed gas chambers and 6 million to make it a complete propaganda movie, otherwise the Hollywood concentration camps, hanging and random killings were there, however some scenes and situations are believable and the part with "Queen of the fields" make me laugh. The characters aren't that interesting, they don't evolve in any way, the slaves are there to work and the slave owners are there to make sure they work, with added violence. I guess that's what the movie offers, sex and violence, you don't feel like you watched the tragic destiny of anybody, just some hellish joyride brought to you via the magic of Hollywood. The experience of watching this movie left me not feeling like I wasted my time but also that it's not something superb. Expand
  84. Jun 21, 2014
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. This film is simply overrated. Steve McQueen is by no means a bad director, but his characters are dull and brutal. They spend much of the movie torturing slaves as a sympathy tool, but it fails and makes you feel horrible. His freeing at the end feels meaningless and stupid. I don't understand why I don't like this movie, it simply rubbed me the wrong way. Expand
  85. Jan 15, 2014
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. For his next project, the big shot Hollywood director(in Sullivan's Travels) aspires to make a "message film" about the poor, but in the process, ends up demeaning the underprivileged class when he goes undercover dressed in hobo apparel as research for an adaptation of O Brother Where Art Thou, a dramatic piece that the studio hack is ill-suited for, since his filmography consists of profitable, but mostly forgettable comedies. In stark contrast to his lightweight oeuvre, John Sullivan suddenly develops a conscious; he wants to experience "the real world", a world he knows next-to-nothing about. Solomon Northup, albeit an imperfect analogue to John Sullivan, arguably, undergoes a similar journey. After all, how much did a free Negro have in common with a slave? The progressive north of 12 Years a Slave, where a black man and his family could walk down any street without hassle, doesn't at all resemble the real world, but more like the 19th century of some parallel universe. When Solomon wakes up, shackled, in a darkened cell, after two men, alleged circus promoters, the night prior, laces the fiddle player's wine with a sedative, it recalls the same topsy-turvy scenario that befalls John, who, after flaunting his wealth to the wrong hobo, from a boxcar, rouses from his incapacitated state and ends up becoming a slave to the state, just another felon in a chain gang, a prosperous man made anonymous. Sheltered entertainers both, skin color is the lone prevailing trait that the filmmaker and violinist have in common with their respective people. Despite being black, Solomon is separated by class. The bourgeois Negro, following his vicious indoctrination to the south, with a bloodied backside, kicks away the plate of slop laid down by his captor, an instinct predicated on upbringing and self-image, the same factors that compel John and the "The Girl" to reject the food they're served at a soup kitchen. When a fellow kidnappee counsels Solomon on their unlawful predicament, the musician speaks as if he lives in a vacuum, telling the other prisoner, "I don't want to survive. I want to live." Well, so would his southern counterparts. This sociological differentiation rears itself most prominently on the cotton plantation, in a scene where Patsey, the slave whom Master Epps fixes himself erotically on, requests that Solomon help assist her in suicide, down by the river. With unintended hubris, he asks Patsey, "How can you fall in such despair?" Sure, being a slave for twelve years is cruel, but it's a sentence that pales in comparison to a lifetime of indentured servitude. "God forgives merciful acts," ensures Patsey, who needs to convince Solomon that the perceived transgression is not a sin. God, always an abstract and malleable construct, according to Patsey, sees Negroes as people, not property, whereas in The Birth of a Nation, it's the latter, since God's cameo has the effect of sanctioning Flora's self-propelling dive from the cliff as, in Patsey's own words, "a merciful act", a suicide without biblical retribution, because her pursuant, a Negro, who in accordance with the film's ideology, would certainly have raped her. Solomon, never one to participate in Negro spirituals while working Master Epps' cotton fields, finally relents at a slave funeral. No more airs. The man who once told a hysterical mother to stop mourning so audibly for her children, realizes, at long last, that he is just another n****r. As an aficionado of high art, Solomon, undoubtedly, would not be caught dead singing "Roll, Jordan Roll" back home in New York amongst his white friends. But this is not the south that Ashley Wilkes waxes poetically about in Gone with the Wind. "The high soft Negro laughter from the quarter," that he yearns for would be hard to hear over Patsey's screaming when Epps nearly whips the life out of her. In a film about slavery, there must be blood, serious blood, not puerile blood, like the Grand Guignol spectacle in Django Unchained. But to Tarantino's credit, the film does foreground the reactionary ideas behind the 1939 David O. Selznick epic, since Dr. King Schultz plays like an update of Rhett Butler, the blockade runner, who, unlike the bounty hunter, never develops a conscience about the slave trade after years of profiteering from it. The flashbacks of the runaway mandingo fighter being torn apart by dogs are Schultz's. With a start, we realize that his enlightened attitude towards Negroes was part of his role. He then breaks character; he won't shake Monsieur Candie's hand. When the faux dentist shoots him, he allows himself to be gunned down without a fight, as penance for being part of the problem; for simply being there, like Bass, Solomon's patron, who accepts payment in full for services rendered as a carpenter from slave owners. Although Bass can't shoot Epps, put Patsey on a horse, or blow up the plantation, he can write a letter. Expand
  86. Nov 22, 2013
    It's the most tense 2 hours I've spent in a movie in a long time, and the angriest. To hell with white guilt, what about human guilt? We learn again that all humans need to do to become monsters is to consider another human to be not one. It's been our evil legacy since we stood upright, the ape genes we cannot seem to rid ourselves of. What strikes close to home for me is that our own history is as full of vileness as was the Nazi period, the Pol Pot period, Mao and Stalin's, Idi Amin's, with the difference being that it lasted for 300 odd years in our not to distant past.
    The movie has no gratuitous violence, no one dimensional characters, no political correctness. Just truth.
  87. Nov 4, 2013
    This movie will make you cry and want to scream in the theater at the same time. It really messes with your emotions. There are parts during the film that you have to dissociate and forget where you are and who you are. It's surreal to think we live in this world when presented with stuff like this.
  88. Feb 28, 2014
    My wife and I ended up watching this movie pretty much on a whim after hearing a few things, and it turns out that that was a great move. The movie is quit good, so if you're on the fence for whatever reason it's an entertaining, sad, and eye-opening movie worth your time.
  89. Nov 5, 2013
    Chiwetel Ejiofor delivers a stunning performance as a free black man, who's abducted into pre-Civil-War slavery. He manages to hold onto his hope and dignity, while enduring horrendous cruelties, both mental and physical. The cast is full of outstanding performances with Michael Fassbender and newcomer Lupita Nyong'o delivering memorable moments. Director Steve McQueen has incredible skills for observation and visual artistry. Every image is beautiful. Despite the stifling oppression and unflinching violence, there's a certain detachment that renders the outcome more observation than experience. Still, this is a masterpiece of cinematic skill and a story that's all the more incredible because it's true. Expand
  90. Mar 2, 2014
    this movie is just an average movie about slavery. Are you kidding me, segregation movies are a dime a dozen and this movie beat out gravity for golden globes???? Gravity has never been done before ever ever ever ever. 12 years a slave i watched once and will never watch again. I watched gravity 5 times and still love it. Its almost the year 2015 people not 1815. And like i said there are a ton of segregation movies and not a ton of gravity movies because its one of a kind. Trust me the acadamy awards are coming and you will see what wins. Expand
  91. Mar 20, 2014
    The film's raw textures and brutal imagery fit McQueen's proverbial bill; the only thing more transcendent than the film's story are the acting performances that make it so much more hard-hitting. It's not for the faint of heart, and it wastes very little time getting into detail. If you are familiar with McQueen's other outings, you can imagine that a historical film about slavery won't be all peaches and cream, which some people (clearly) have a hard time digesting. And that's okay, but this is a responsible, balanced film that deserves anyone and everyone's due diligence to view it from the perspective of a historian and not a critic. The statement it makes is going to be there - no matter what - for a movie about slavery. Instead of getting hung up on this notion, immerse yourself in the film and give it every last bit of attention you can give; it's not worth wasting your time otherwise. Expand
  92. Oct 5, 2014
    12 Years a Slave is an interesting film that educates us upon just how dark a past we humans have. The movie is extremely well acted and sometimes uncomfortably emotive. Two specific annoyances , though; the director's unnecessary use of over-long static camera shots (We get the point! We don't need to be bashed over the head!) and very famous actors cropping up and breaking immersion (Oooooh... It's Brad Pitt). These points aside, 12 Years a Slave is great. Expand
  93. Nov 12, 2013
    "12 Years a Slave" strips the hollywood gloss from America's most disgraceful period, McQueen's realist direction and the cast's awards-worthy performances capturing the horror and bleakness of the life of a slave that is altogether required viewing.
  94. Nov 25, 2013
    I was unaware of the practice of kidnapping free blacks and selling them into slavery in the South... just another charming factoid about America's era of slavery. A little spiritual preparation for this film is a good idea. Also, try to hit a matinée, so you have time to decompress afterward.
  95. Mar 13, 2014
    I was quite disappointed by this film. Steve McQueen fails once again to illicit any empathy for his characters. The screenplay is sporadic and choppy. Visually it's common. The one thing is that the actors rise above the material. The performances are capable. The direction lacks passion.
  96. Apr 12, 2014
    A well taken movie. Precise, and to-the-point, although it did feel a little draggy in between. Exceptional performance by Michael Fassbender. Good performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Benedict Cumberbatch add to the essence of the movie. The movie did feel like it was already conveying a well known concept, and hence felt slightly boring. Impressive locations and cinematography gave the movie what it needed. Expand
  97. Dec 2, 2013
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. I'm glad Steve McQueen has the mentality that he has, as seen in Hunger and Shame. He, like Lars Von Trier, aren't afraid and won't hold back. This pattern is seen here again, which leaves an everlasting memory of the harsh reality faced by Solomon Northup. Great performances all around. Just amazing filmmaking, the whole team, all around. Sean Bobbitt with the great eye as well. The long takes, especially with Ejiofor hanging by the noose, wow. Nice editing. Expand
  98. Nov 25, 2013
    I found this movie to be great but not perfect. I read every yellow or red user review, and found nearly every claim or sentiment in them to be nonsense. I will comment on them as a whole here.

    The movie is not unnecessary. The movie doesn't need to be plotted in the way that an action-thriller screenwriting 101 movie is. Not every movie needs to be "entertaining" in
    the way that some people demand. The various slave owners were different people with different personalities. A movie is not obliged to fit a genre.
    I find it absolutely stupefying that you would object to the movie as full of stereotypes, excessive brutality and sadism, and not made for a noble purpose; AND THEN suggest a Tarantino movie instead.
    How does it 'go nowhere'? What message did you want it to have? What would happen if someone tried to make a movie that didn't have a message you could summarize in a short sentence? Did you notice zero changes in Solomon's character?
    I agree that the out-of-order sequence or repetition of moments may have lost more than it gained, but it did serve to underline the thoughts and emotions of Solomon. I can't agree that some of the long takes and transitions "should have moved quicker". I thought they were quite right for this movie.
    You watched a movie about a free man sold into slavery for twelve years and you have a problem with the suffering in it? I don't see how the movie would have been better if they also included some of the joking around or dancing or Sunday naps or that the slaves took, to round out the picture. Not every single white character in this movie is evil; I think you may have forgotten at least 4 characters.
    As *I* stood back and looked at this film objectively, I found it to be excellent. Part of that excellence was how it worked on my emotions, without manipulating them. I don't understand what was unintelligible.
    I'm white and a centrist, and the movie did not make me feel guilty. I would guess that you watched this movie while imagining someone you hate watching this movie. I watched this movie imagining the life of a free man kidnapped and sold into slavery. It made me think and feel new things. Also, I'm a little bit worried about your screen-name.
    For everything you said, it seems that you should have recommended a few of these movies that you had in mind. As far as the realism and acting, the whole movie struck me as having a 'heightened realism' tone, not pure realism, and not pure stylization. I think this 'heightened realism' is reflected through the movie, as in the long transitions in the middle of the movie where the sound from the previous scene affects our understanding of the new scene [a slave woman sobbing at night the next morning a slave owner reads scripture to all the slaves].
  99. Feb 11, 2014
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. 12 Years a Slave is a powerful film that is brilliantly unflinching and impeccably made and may possibly be the most raw, real and accurate slavery films to come out in recent years (or maybe even ever). With fantastic acting from its amazing cast, brilliant and realistic set-design and an awe-inspiring original score by Hans Zimmer; this film is much more than the average Oscar-bait flick. The film, unfortunately, has its flaws; the fact that years were going by wasn't really illustrated properly, actors looked exactly the same as years went by and that felt very unrealistic to me and I also would have liked a more emotional reunion between Solomon and his family. In the end, 12 Years a Slave is a film that definitely needs to be seen, it is not perfect, but it is worth the watch. Expand
  100. Mar 22, 2014
    Powerful movie. But how could it not be? It's about slavery and thats going to be heavy. Acted very well. Fassbender is like you've never seen him before. Lupita was great but a bit overrated. You know what your getting your self into when you see this movie.

Universal acclaim - based on 48 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 47 out of 48
  2. Negative: 0 out of 48
  1. Reviewed by: Emma Dibdin
    Jan 14, 2014
    Visceral, vital and anchored by its earnest performances, this is a potent portrait of a shameful historical truth.
  2. Reviewed by: Ian Freer
    Jan 6, 2014
    Falling between the twin pillars of the art house and prestige period flick, 12 Years A Slave is history lesson as horror film, powerful, visceral and affecting. And after years of being great in everything, Chiwetel Ejiofor shines in a lead worthy of his immense talent.
  3. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Nov 7, 2013
    There has never been a movie like 12 Years a Slave, which is Hollywood's shame. Miss it, and that mistake is yours.