12 Years a Slave

User Score
8.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 932 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 84 out of 932
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  1. Apr 20, 2014
    5
    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 actingIf 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.
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  2. Nov 8, 2013
    4
    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 ofSteve 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
  3. May 24, 2014
    4
    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.
  4. Mar 1, 2014
    5
    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 journey12 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
  5. Jun 21, 2014
    6
    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
  6. Nov 1, 2013
    4
    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
    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.
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  7. Jan 3, 2014
    5
    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.
  8. Jul 4, 2014
    4
    All dramas need a conflict and a resolution (Resolution doesn't have to be final, it can be a setup for a new conflict). After "12 Years a Slave" has set up a conflict, it just is. And the worst part of it is that it actually has no resolution - the ending is a lousy cheat. It feels like Steve McQueen has forgotten the differences between a drama and a documentary. Shame.
  9. May 3, 2014
    5
    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 ownersIt 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
  10. Oct 26, 2013
    6
    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 filmThe 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
  11. Jun 29, 2014
    5
    '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.
  12. Feb 16, 2014
    4
    The most overrated movie of 2013. The movie shows you the psychological horror of slavery with the protagonist not really taking a part in anything. There is no lesson to be learned here, just showing how horrible things were for African Americans at the time. Feels very forced and tedious, and five minutes in it you will know exactly what's gonna happen. Unimaginative or creative at all.The most overrated movie of 2013. The movie shows you the psychological horror of slavery with the protagonist not really taking a part in anything. There is no lesson to be learned here, just showing how horrible things were for African Americans at the time. Feels very forced and tedious, and five minutes in it you will know exactly what's gonna happen. Unimaginative or creative at all. A journey of pain and it's done. Expand
  13. Mar 2, 2014
    5
    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 therethis 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. Collapse
  14. Mar 13, 2014
    6
    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.
  15. Jan 20, 2014
    6
    All in all, this film fails to impress. There are just a few moments when one embraces the supposed depth of it, but they aren't able to support the whole length. The acting is just sufficient, and the character of Solomon himself lacks the development the film promises. The soundtrack is awful and seems to be made of only two tracks. Cinematography I would say is the best bit.

    This
    All in all, this film fails to impress. There are just a few moments when one embraces the supposed depth of it, but they aren't able to support the whole length. The acting is just sufficient, and the character of Solomon himself lacks the development the film promises. The soundtrack is awful and seems to be made of only two tracks. Cinematography I would say is the best bit.

    This film adds nothing to the account of slavery films, and this is somewhat shocking given it is a true story after all. One thing more: "Django Unchained" was heavily criticised for the constant use of the word **** with people ranting on and on about how it was inappropriate. That doesn't seem to apply to 12 Years a Slave for reason unknown. And, since I mentioned it, Django Unchained was a more likeable and even a more historically accurate film, without pretentiousness and without trying too much (or at all) to involve the viewer to a point when we feel a bit nauseated by this eagerness.
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  16. Apr 18, 2015
    6
    I get it. Slavery was/is bad. But this movie lays it on too thick. Maybe all the high scores are from masochists. For the most part, good performances. Good cinematography also. Downside, long scenes of nothing (filler). The ending was also very unsatisfying. They should have extended the movie instead of listing captions at the end. Not a gratifying ending with all things considered butI get it. Slavery was/is bad. But this movie lays it on too thick. Maybe all the high scores are from masochists. For the most part, good performances. Good cinematography also. Downside, long scenes of nothing (filler). The ending was also very unsatisfying. They should have extended the movie instead of listing captions at the end. Not a gratifying ending with all things considered but still a better one than we were given. Expand
  17. Feb 19, 2014
    6
    It's hard to find a flaw in "12 Years at Slave" is well directed, great photography, well-acted, but by his premise, can say I expected a more sweeping film, the heart beats a little too weak.
  18. Mar 4, 2014
    6
    The only people i hate on this Earth are the racists! Everybody have to watch this movie and see how evil,gross and stupid people were at that time! GREAT actors, poor editing and a little over-rated though... this movie is going to make you cry and THAT'S ALL! Nothing else... based on a true story
  19. Feb 8, 2014
    6
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Familiar with the plight of Solomon Northup, I began my viewing experience of 12 Years a Slave with high expectations. It was shortly afterwards that my expectations were successfully lowered. While a dramatic story in itself, the film fails to create any semblance of drama. No attempt is made to develop the character of "wrongly enslaved" free African-American Solomon Northup (or almost any other character,. In a perplexing opening sequence, we are shown Solomon's life on a sugar plantation, well, not exactly his life but gratuitous shots of him laboring and having anonymous sex with a female field hand. So this is bondage?

    With a second act seemingly 12 years long, the viewer is left wondering whatever became of basic story telling technique. No attention is given to setup. What Solomon Northup has achieved in order to live in apparent middle class comfort in the environs of affluent Saratoga NY is never satisfactorily explained. Somewhere in the tortuous second act, he relates he was once a laborer on the St. Lawrence Seaway, and was entrusted with a cargo delivery to Troy NY. An explanation that hardly supports his glimpsed portrayal as a prosperous man about town.

    Mr. Northup is a family man, so we are shown, in a mere 4 minutes of screen time in the movie's meager first act. But as if suddenly remembered, Mr. Northup, along with the audience, is finally introduced to his family in an uncomfortable reunion at the movie's close. In what should have been a moment of triumphant joy, Mr. McQueen instead chose to portray it as an exercise in British-style restraint. The ending, as the movie itself, is soulless.

    However, 12 Years a Slave may have inadvertently achieved a modicum of success on another level. For a country whose notions of slavery were formed by the pablum served up by Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind", 12 Years a Slave alternately portrays, (somewhat) the psyche of American slaveholders. Denial, delusions of racial superiority/inferiority, neurosis, scripture, combine to provide the slaveholding class with a sense of moral righteousness.

    In the end, 12 Years a Slave's message, slavery was a nasty business, resonates only with those few who were somehow unaware of this country's "peculiar institution". Fewer still may however, come away with some awareness of just how this "nasty business" survived as long as it did. This is the best that can be hoped for with this effort.
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  20. Jan 18, 2014
    6
    Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong'o give powerhouse performances, and absolutely deserved their Oscar nods. As a whole, though, "12 Years a Slave" is uneven. The film's depictions of violence and cruelty are wrenching, but there is very little underlying character or plot development. The viewer never really gets a full picture of Solomon's relationship with his family or the people heChiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong'o give powerhouse performances, and absolutely deserved their Oscar nods. As a whole, though, "12 Years a Slave" is uneven. The film's depictions of violence and cruelty are wrenching, but there is very little underlying character or plot development. The viewer never really gets a full picture of Solomon's relationship with his family or the people he works alongside after being forced into slavery. Expand
Metascore
97

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
    80
    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
    80
    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
    100
    There has never been a movie like 12 Years a Slave, which is Hollywood's shame. Miss it, and that mistake is yours.