User Score
8.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 779 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 77 out of 779

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  1. Nov 23, 2014
    8
    12 Years Slave es una película de drama convincente y con un guión atractivo, y que aunque la película le falto un poco de chispa, no dejo de ser un buen drama.
  2. Nov 22, 2014
    8
    12 Years a Slave couldn't be more real. It really captures what the world was like at that time. Solomon Northup was portray beautifully and I'm glad that this film managed to capture the Oscar for Best Picture, its a very worthy film. The ending has one of the most intense scenes that I've seen in any movie, I won't spoil it, because its amazing. It must have took a lot of studying in order to create this film. I may have to go out and read Northup's book now. Expand
  3. Nov 11, 2014
    10
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Solomon Northup was a free-born man living in Saratoga, New York married with two children. In 1841 he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Viewers should not take Northup's story as something individual. Situations like this happened several times over the course of this horrific period, a clear type of holocaust of the African-American human people.

    If you have already watched Hunger (2008) and Shame (2011) you certainly know that Steve McQueen directs his films with merciless realism. His first two films were very dark and perplexing and so is 12 Years a Slave.

    The main theme of McQeen's film agenda is, I believe, about complex human-beings finding themselves in difficult situations. Bobby Sands, Brandon and finally Solomon Northup. Even though their names don't really matter, because they are just characters who represent the difficulties of our everyday lives.

    The film is a cruel examination of slavery in America and McQueen was probably the best director for this kind of material. His long takes and the objectivity of his camera make the movie seem realistic. The movie as an achievement represents perfection at cinematography, production, costumes and editing. Hans Zimmer score is hypnotic and controls the emotions of the audience. And of course a great screenplay by John Ridley who adapted Northup's memoir and created almost all the dialogue.

    Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a powerful and riveting performance as Solomon Northup. After a good stage career and some decent film performances, Ejiofor takes full advantage of his great talent previously shown in Dirty Pretty Things. This is one of the best performances of all time.

    Behind Ejiofor we see an extremely talented supporting cast full of charismatic and great actors. Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o give career best performances and stand out among Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano and others.

    What an incredible, haunting and touching film it is. Highly recommended for everyone who has the gut to watch the truth in a so tense way. Not only the best movie of the year but also one of the greatest and most important achievements in the history of movie-making.
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  4. Oct 30, 2014
    8
    Summary: 12 Years a Slave delivers intense sequences of drama, great characterization and quality performances. 84/100 [B+]

    I usually dislike this type of films, because all of them are extremely overrated, but 12 Years a Slave it's not overrated at all, it's quite good actually. Moving on, its execution is slow-paced, it's a bit boring at times. However, it's a great film that relies
    on pain and sadness. I only have some issues with the main character "Solomon Northup", he is uninteresting and dull; Chiwetel Ejiofor does a great job performing this boring character though. On the upside, the film is rich in storytelling and its long running time is not a problem. Although the last 40-30 minutes have long periods of boredom, I enjoyed it for the most part.

    Its final act has a very intense and extremely sad scene with Lupita Nyong'o and the "American Horror Story" star Sarah Paulson. Also, the whole movie is wickedly graphic and awkward to watch at times. In spite of a few boring scenes and a dull main character, 12 Years a Slave it's a quite gruesome experience. The acting is so good and it boasts lots of memorable moments. Of course, its premise is delicate, but the movie is in good hands, its director Steve McQueen directed with care and emotion. So, in conclusion, it's a sentimental film that conveys emotions to the audience and takes to itself seriously (for the obvious reasons). [B+]
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  5. Oct 13, 2014
    10
    Wonderful cinematography/photography, deeply visceral and a troubling story, as can be expected. I found the negative commentaries strangely sad and lacking decency. Most of the films detractors found it boring and/or especially vicious. It is a retelling of the Solomon Northrup's story. I'll probably not watch it again as I am not particularly a fan of violence and sadism. That being said, it's brilliantly acted, directed and produced. It is definitely not a pleasure movie, but worthy of praise and observation/viewing. Expand
  6. Oct 5, 2014
    8
    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
  7. Sep 25, 2014
    0
    This is the most boring film I have seen in many years. Too loud a soundtrack, poor and indistinct diction, no story line, wooden acting, and filled with unnecessarily graphic violence. The film appears to have been made purely to shock the audience, whereas this viewer simply found the whole film a waste of time, and wishing he was anywhere but in the cinema. Not an experience I would wish to repeat. Expand
  8. Sep 20, 2014
    10
    A truly great movie is one that stays with you long after it is ended.

    A truly great movie is one that stays with you long after it is ended. The emotions and story unshakable; hours, days, weeks and 12 Years A Slave is such a film. From the moment the film opened on the first scene I was racked with anxiety. Not having read any reviews for 12 Years A Slave, I only knew it was
    fearlessly honest about the story of a free man from the North, kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana.

    Such clear purpose and vision could only produce a story of unwavering fortitude such as this. Steve McQueen, the director, is an artist and true visionary for his unflinching portrayal of Mr. Solomon Northup’s story and the unending brutalities and injustices encountered by those in slavery. The knot that persisted in my stomach from start to finish is a direct result of his firm ability to never look away. I felt compelled to honor those who had endured such unspeakable horrors that were once their life by watching and also not looking away, likely Mr. McQueen’s goal. From the moment Mr. Northup is sold, as Platt, you hopelessly seek out for some person to be a refuge as he fights to survive. The story is beautifully told, never allowing you to fully become immersed in the slave’s life, never truly forgetting the freedom that was once had – with the use of flashbacks and remarks reminiscent of a previous life. No scene is wasted, no filler, no false emotions spurred from music, just the hard truth of one man’s life. The saddest truth is Mr. Northup’s story is unremarkable in comparison to thousands of other men, women and children forced and born into slavery.

    Every actor deserves not just a nomination, but an award, to honor their brave and ultimately successful choice to take on such an insurmountable task of each role. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Adepero Oduye and the countless actors who I failed to list or those who played minor roles were impeccable and steadfast and a direct contributor to the movie’s achievement.

    If you are emotionally mature enough to endure such a dramatic, honest and truthful story then I implore you to set apart a day and watch 12 Years A Slave. A day is necessary to allow yourself to process such a magnificent film that is truly in a class of its own surpassing all other films released this year.

    I do understand if you do not, as the movie was incredibly difficult to watch.

    More reviews of recent releases can be found at our website.
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  9. Sep 6, 2014
    9
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. It's a viewing only for those who have the stomach, but the emotional roller coaster ride you take along with Solomon Northup is almost perfect. The character development and other key aspects of the film, make it a must watch. The movie almost plays like a Schindler's list meets passion of the Christ. The one negative thing I can say about the film is the unnecessary brutality at some parts and also how it drawn out. Sooner or later I felt like I've been here and done this for two hours already. Though the movie closes off with a fantastic conclusion to a movie that will leave you hating yourself...especially if your white. Though my ancestress weren't in America during slavery and basically Irish people were slaves years before blacks; you still get that terrible sense you did something wrong. You can take this badly or good. I choose neither. It paints a picture of what we (as whites) did to blacks, which is basically the worst thing ever committed by Americans, and gives it to us. It's a very well down movie and does seem to be one of the best movies of 2013. Overall it has some big flaws but rights itself in the end with a extremely emotional finale. 9.1 Expand
  10. Sep 5, 2014
    10
    12 Years a Slave is brilliant and depressing at the same time.The performances in this movie are simply fabulous and definitely Oscar worthy.A true heart beating drama that leaves you speechless.
  11. Sep 2, 2014
    10
    Disturbing and violent--12 Years a Slave is far frome easy to view. Nevertheless, this film is something that each and every American owes themselves to see. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong'o shine bright in such a dark world.
  12. Aug 1, 2014
    9
    This was a fantastic film, well written and tremendous performances from all the stars. Far better film than I went in expecting.....................
  13. Jul 21, 2014
    10
    12 Years a Slave is without a doubt,the best film of 2013 - it is emotionally captivating, brilliantly acted, and has a wonderfully heart warming story of a man who faced unfathomable adversity.
  14. Jul 19, 2014
    9
    Una grandiosa película, realizada para hacerte llorar, con maravillosas interpretaciones por parte de sus protagonistas y que muestra una parte importante de la historia norteamericana.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Jun 25, 2014
    8
    Prior to watching this: No comment here.
    Review:
    Pros: Powerful story. Great acting all around.
    Cons: It may be a great film, but you may not enjoy it.
    4/5 - It's worth paying to watch it in the cinema.
  18. Jun 24, 2014
    1
    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.
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  19. Jun 22, 2014
    7
    12 years a slave is a good film that could have been a great film, it is well worth watching and the conclusion is fantastic, but they somehow felt the need to try just a little bit too hard, when the subject matter is more than powerful enough.

    Chiwetel delivers an excellent performance - as always, yet I don't believe that the movie deserves the shining critical acclaim it has received.
  20. 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
  21. Jun 8, 2014
    9
    Very powerful and it definitely deserves all the praise and awards. A truly real, well crafted, extraordinary piece of cinema, though it may be a hard watch with the racial themes. I love how director Steve Mcqueen can capture a very lengthy shot and make it so powerful and grand in his movies. This movie is epic and well acted.
  22. Jun 5, 2014
    9
    This movie is a masterpiece! Not much more to say. I had to regain my manliness by punching my pillow in the end of the movie. The last time I had tears like that in my eyes was when watching a sad film, those were tears of joy and happiness. No film ever did this to me.
  23. May 25, 2014
    8
    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
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  24. 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.
  25. May 16, 2014
    10
    IT ONE OF THOSE FILMS THAT WHOLE WORLD HAS TO SEE!!!!! MUST SEE FILM OF 2013!!!! The performance from the entire were POWERFUL!!!!

    The film that we will never forget!!!
  26. May 9, 2014
    9
    Steve Mcqueen's "Shame" didn't make much sense but "12 Years A Slave" is beautifully made, which tells a heart wrenching story during dark days of American history. Sean Bobbit's camera work is truly beautiful.
  27. May 5, 2014
    10
    Ok, so I was a little late to the party with this film, eh? Well, better late than never, right? Correct, and I'm so glad I finally got to see this phenomenal movie. This movie touched me so differently than other movies have this year. I'm not even a big fan of movies about history, so this movie is for everyone if you appreciate things like this. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, in this film does an amazing, flawless performance. They perform each scene wonderfully and the writing/script compliments it all. The whole story is truly sad and touching. A free man gets kidnapped and is sold into the cruel subject of slavery. No movie has portrayed this time period in America as accurately and greatly as this. You know how some lame movies about slavery never really show how brutal the caucasians were to the blacks? This movie has brutal scenes that are NOT easy to watch. I'm not gonna lie. The first master Solomon is sold to is actually not a huge psychopath jerk that you'd think these kind of men would be. Man, the second one though? A HUGE maniacal jerk. Michael Fassbender really shows the audience how cruel this character was. Also, one of my other favorite, best characters is Lupita. Every single character, like I said, is perfect and they're equal in terms of quality. Where it was filmed is also a great setting. I'm telling you though, 12 Years a Slave is a movie that is so sympathetic that it really will touch you and break your heart at times. The ending is something that might even make you shed a tear for this amazing man. I did. Don't you already get the gist that this movie is amazing in every aspect? You should, and if you haven't seen this film yet, I highly advise with all my mind. Like I said, it isn't an easy watch. However, that doesn't mean it isn't WORTH watching, and it is in every, single way. Expand
  28. May 3, 2014
    0
    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.
  29. 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 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
  30. May 1, 2014
    9
    An amazing journey to a era of slavery, brutality, and a sad true story of a surviver, by the hand of stunning performances, and one of the most recognised director, Steve McQueen is at his very best, but still a bit slow at some sequences.
  31. Apr 21, 2014
    9
    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.
  32. 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 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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  33. Apr 18, 2014
    10
    Small scale in its 'sweep', due to adherence to the truth of the story and a refusal to reside in the world of the sensational, the film is no less affecting as a result. Perhaps the intimacy we feel and the respect the film shows us as an audience (rare these days), its play-like nature and quieter moments are indeed its strength. I was totally unsurprised to see it win Best Film (albeit that I think American Hustle was terrific fun and magnificent film-making / acting).
    The scene towards the end... you'll know it if you have seen it.... where there was almost no sense of time nor words.. quite rightly, I have no words for. One of the great 'moments' in the history of film. The film a sa whole cannot sustain that kind of brilliance of course, but what film could? It is still a masterpiece.
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  34. Apr 12, 2014
    8
    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
  35. Apr 6, 2014
    3
    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.
  36. Apr 6, 2014
    3
    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.
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  37. Apr 1, 2014
    2
    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.....
  38. Mar 30, 2014
    7
    It ends up being really predictably, well at least partially. Of course, at the end, that´s what you expect. Really good acting and directing. Excellent design.
  39. Mar 25, 2014
    9
    The Autobiography of Solomon northup !!

    ** 12 Years Of Slave **

    * This movie which dwells you in the depth of emotions which is caused by suffering and hardship rather than a warm happiness & enjoyment ! this film actually puts you in the place in which you being entertained by sadness and hardship in which you would never have expected or cannot deny being entertained !.This movie
    can literally capture your emotions it makes you feel for those characters in this movie like any other its has a specialty within itself that is unique from others ! .This is one of the greatest movie hands down it has beauty in its own which is both wonderful and outstanding !! .

    * This movie is an autobiography of Solomon northup who is being kidnapped and sold for slavery that eventually turns his life into misery & hardship ! This film was true to its source materials that gave this movie the huge clarity actually it also gave the feel to his suffering and also suffering for others who he associated with ! This movie has both beauty and truth .

    * The Actors Performance was outstanding they stood as the actual generators who generates our emotion when they perform during screen play ! Each and every actors performance stood as pillars for this entire movie ! Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup did and excellent performance so did other actors like Lupita Nyong'o as Patsey ,Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps ,Benedict Cumberbatch as William Ford and Brad Pitt as Samuel Bass they gave their respective characters heart and soul for this movie ! .

    * The Characters in this movie is heavily relied upon the performance of the actors as it being performed excellent and wonderful it gives the characters its beauty and brilliance !.

    * This movie is basically less in humor you cannot find any moment that so enjoyable because the story doesn't fit in with humor as it eventually displays emotion which are related with misery and hardship !.

    * This movie is entirely dramatic as its display an amount of clarity and sense of wonder with great screenplay and excellent acting performance that gives this movie its advantage and credit ! .

    * The director of this movie Steve McQueen did an outstanding dramatic movie with great direction & screenplay that make this movie as one of the best autobiographic movies of all the time ! .

    * Overall the movie is outstanding with all the performance it has successfully captured our emotions that gave this movie a sense of wonder , excitement and also sense of satisfaction which makes this entire movie wonderful .

    12 Years of Slave : *********

    (9/10)
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  40. Mar 24, 2014
    9
    ''Fearless!'' ''Unforgettable.'' ''Electrifying.'' ''One Of The Best Films Ever Made!'' This is the movie you should watch in focus. One of the most Important film you're ever going to see.
  41. Mar 22, 2014
    7
    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.
  42. Mar 21, 2014
    7
    I had very high expectations for this movie this movie when I saw all of the trailers and it certainly did not live up to those standards in the slightest. I was expecting so much more and it did not deserve best picture or best supporting actress in the oscars. Jennifer Lawrence from American hustle was much better than Lupita Nyongo, and American hustle, Dallas buyers club and captain Phillips were all better than this movie. The constant repeat of the same scene just to waste time was really useless. I thought Fassbenders performance was great but overall..One of Steve McQueens more disappointing films and I'd give it 7/10 at a big push! Expand
  43. Mar 21, 2014
    10
    After what feels like twelve hundred lashings, we are left transfixed at the horrors on the screen as a poor young lady has been innocently victimized by the sharp cane of a mean, powerful and perverted land owner. This is just one of the many harrowing scenes in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave – a fruitful and climatic dramatization of Solomon Northup’s novel of the same name.

    This is
    a hard film to call, it is no doubt a grand dramatization in the life of a slave, but is it overtly so? Or does the film focus too much on this epic translation of Solomon’s life to the big screen that it forgets all the other impediments such a landmark should forge? When Brad Pitt enters the scene as a kind-hearted Canadian speaking out against slavery, it seems clearly convenient and perhaps too messianic. Yet, McQueen doesn’t send us half-hearted back to 1841 and rigorously achieves what a film must: let us experience the characters journey. So, despite occasional setback and concern surrounding my observations, this film is ultimately awe-inspiring and you’d have to be a fool not to feel its power and raw emotion.

    Chiwetel Ejiofor (playing Solomon) is the eyes and soul of this film. It is a grandiose performance of tears, adoration, forfeiture and being. Often, McQueen will leave his camera resting on Solomon’s shoulder or waiting just around the corner. We are summoned to live and breath with this character, feel his pain and stare straight into his forlorn soul. A primary example of McQueen escalating tension in this sense is when Solomon is hanged but left dangling with his toes barely touching the ground. There he waits for help, as most ignore him. It is excruciating, we watch Solomon balance himself, as for not would mean death. But, the camera is not always lingering, sometimes it is swirling in circles, to contradict McQueen’s earlier method of creating tension. In this case, it is tension via action, rather than emotion. In this scene, Solomon is forced to whip Patsy (Lupita Nyong’o) – a fellow lady slave – it is a pinical scene and one that hammers home the diseased social order of their sick master Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender).

    McQueen’s two previous films have also addressed intense subject matter – In Hunger we experience the hunger strike against the British occupation in Northern Island, and in Shame, a man crippled by sex addiction. The insane acts that human beings carry out on one another is the limelight of McQueen’s work and one shouldn’t be surprised if he picks out subject matter related to Hitler, Stalin or Xianzhong as his next piece of work!
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  44. Mar 20, 2014
    9
    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
  45. Mar 19, 2014
    8
    It's a painful, two-hour punch in the gut. You won't enjoy it but you have to see it. As a work of art it deserves a full 10; I'm giving it an 8 because, as a film, it could use a tighter story and a more compelling lead character.
  46. Mar 16, 2014
    9
    Lo más curioso de este proyecto es que, varios años antes de 12 Years a Slave, se le había premiado al director Steve McQueen como "Futuro Talento Cinematográfico". Nunca se equivocan. 12 Years a Slave es fiel a los relatos de Salomon Northup y con un reparto exquisito demuestra que hasta el día de hoy se marca y se hace recuerdo de una parte de la historia americana (y del resto del mundo en parte) que nos provoca mirar hacia atrás y sentirnos avergonzados de lo que alguna vez fuimos, pues la película hace mucho hincapié en la falta de humanidad de ese entonces cuando las personas de África eran esclavizadas y maltratadas hasta un punto que resulta imposible. Digna ganadora del Premio Óscar y digna de pagar una entrada para ir a verla. Expand
  47. Mar 14, 2014
    10
    Boring at start. He's just playing the fiddle and white people are dancing and prancing as they are made to. I thought that the movie will stay this way, but when he appears in chains, I told myself: "Oh, this again?". But that thought was killed when a white man suddenly beaten him bloodily until his paddle-thing shattered to pieces. And then I thought to myself, do I still want to watch this? I didn't. It broke my heart into thousands of red splinters. The acting was superb, though dialogue from Platt had room for improvement. Patsey's character was developed exceptionally, perfectly. The movie deserves all praise and hail, and this is a movie (though brutal and sexual), must be watched by your entire family. To let them see the sins of your ancestors. Expand
  48. Mar 14, 2014
    9
    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.
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  49. 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.
  50. Mar 13, 2014
    7
    A good movie although not great. It overplayed the parts of cruelty and beatings to a disgusting point. The flashbacks in time were confusing and awkward. Great acting on the parts of Salomon and Patsy.
  51. Mar 11, 2014
    7
    It's an OK film, but more historical fiction than history. Most characters are black and white (no pun intended) and the only one showing some complexity was the plantation owner played by Benedict Cumberbatch. The screenwriters mostly used violence and cartoon injustice to get you to sympathize with the protagonists and the ending was a bit too sugary and expected for my taste.
  52. PMG
    Mar 9, 2014
    10
    This movie... OH MY GOD, this movie. Okay the only flaw is that the movie never really feels like it took 12 years and aside from that... there are no other flaws. Amazing Acting, an emotionel journey, glories cinematography, a believeble historical seting and one of the most brutal representations of the horror of slaverie. It is difficult to watch, but this is a movie that you must see.
  53. Mar 8, 2014
    8
    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
  54. Mar 8, 2014
    8
    Personally, I thought the ending was pretty much predictable, but other than, the movie really stands out. The acting is fantastic, the movie is powerful and tragic, and even though the film is not an absolute masterpiece, it is definitely a must-see.
  55. Mar 6, 2014
    9
    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
  56. 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
  57. Mar 3, 2014
    1
    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
  58. Mar 2, 2014
    10
    This was a truly heart breaking beautiful movie. It is definitely oscar worthy. The truth behind the story of this movie just makes me want to cry. Amazing!
  59. 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 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
  60. Mar 1, 2014
    8
    It was quite interesting, especially in the script movie, but the torture scenes are very strong, even you feel the pain of the slaves, that if it was painful, but otherwise had no problem, it is a great work and end was the best, if not win the Oscar, but stay in my favorites.
  61. 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 journey or even time passing. Expand
  62. Feb 28, 2014
    9
    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
  63. Feb 28, 2014
    10
    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.
  64. Feb 28, 2014
    9
    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.
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  65. Feb 27, 2014
    2
    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.....
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  66. Feb 25, 2014
    10
    I cried... Several times. I think it is very appropriate to start my review by saying those words. In an age where showing our emotion in public is apparently a taboo. Needless to say, apart from a few heartless sods, I was not the only one who left the local theatre wiping tears from my cheeks. Putting it simply, 12 Years A Slave is superb. The way I see it, this should become the staple period-piece film. It is a film that shows us a dark, visceral story of a point in time that the American government would much rather sweep under the rug.

    It is a triumphant story of loss and despair, but also of remarkable perseverance and resolve.
    The simplicity of the plot leaves the weight of its success on the individual scenes and phenomenal writing. The great cast and setting meld together perfectly.

    In a year of phenomenal films, 12 Years A Slave comes out on par with many others, if not slightly above.
    I hope that in a few years, this might be the film that is shown in history classes. It is not something that should be watched for the sake of the film, it is something that has to be watched because of the horrific times which its characters live in.

    A 10 out of 10.

    Jack Valentine
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  67. Feb 25, 2014
    7
    Nel 1841, Solomon Northup viene rapito a New York, dove vive libero assieme alla famiglia e si guadagna da vivere suonando il violino, e viene deportato come schiavo negli Stati del sud, in crisi di manodopera per le difficoltà sulle rotte negriere dall'Africa. Per raccontarne il lungo incubo prima di ritrovare la libertà, l'inglese Steve McQueen cambia alcune coordinate del suo fare cinema e, quasi a volerlo far intendere subito, utilizza più di una parola nel titolo: si tratta di un film più corale rispetto ai precedenti, che sono dedicati allo scavo psicologico di un solo personaggio, non c’è Fassbender come protagonista assoluto e, soprattutto, la scrittura è affidata a qualcun altro. E’ difatti di John Ridley la sceneggiatura costruita sulle memorie di Northup – che sapeva leggere e scrivere, anche se fu costretto a nasconderlo nei suoi anni di schiavitù – finendo però per essere l'anello debole del lavoro: pur non essendo in nessun punto davvero piatta, la storia non sorprende davvero mai e rende meno efficace l'impatto complessivo. Impatto che, invece, beneficia dell'accuratissimo lavoro della regia sull'immagine: se McQueen conferma la sua bravura nel costruire le inquadrature filmando un profondo sud opprimente dal punto di vista fisico e psicologico (il direttore della fotografia è il fido Sean Bobbitt), il regista inglese dà il meglio di sé nella rappresentazione della fisicità umana, in perfetta continuità con le sue opere precedenti. Si tratta di corpi sofferenti, con in primo piano piaghe sulla pelle che riflettono quelle dell'anima, e di volti che non si vergognano di esprimere i sentimenti – come dice esplicitamente Eliza in una delle tante scene in cui si piange come fontane – raccontando i pensieri che stanno dentro gli sguardi. L'orrore infinito della schiavitù sta nella sgradevolezza dei personaggi interpretati, in piccole ma significative parti, da Paul Dano e Paul Giamatti, oltre che nella gelida cattiveria della signora Epps di Sarah Paulson: se pare vacillare la coscienza di Ford, il primo padrone di Solomon - Benedict Cumberbatch esce di scena troppo presto -, la ferocia del secondo, Epps, la compensa abbondantemente. Nei suoi scomodi panni, l'attore preferito di McQueen, cioè Fassbender, disegna con grande profondità il ritratto di un uomo apparentemente senza sentimenti, violento con più di una punta di sadismo e alcolizzato, rubando se non la scena quantomeno l'attenzione rispetto al resto del cast: ne è testimonianza, fra le altre, la lunga sequenza – girata senza interruzioni con la macchina da presa che segue gli attori – della fustigazione di Patsey. A tener testa a cotanta interpretazione, c’è quella di Chiwetel Ejiofor nel ruolo del protagonista: l'attore inglese, sulle prime dubbioso, coglie al meglio l'occasione della vita rendendo con efficacia prima lo spaesamento di Solomon e poi la sua determinazione a uscire dalla trappola in cui l'hanno ficcato senza piegare (troppo) la testa. Accanto a lui, si fanno ricordare in special modo due figure di donna di una tragicità se possibile crescente, ovvero l’Eliza di Adepero Oduye e la Patsey dell'esordiente Lupita Nyong’o, la cui addolorata performance le ha ben meritato la nomination all'Oscar (corrono per la statuetta anche Fassbender ed Ejiofor, oltre al film e al regista). Piccola, ma decisiva per la liberazione di Northup, è invece la parte di Brad Pitt, che però compare nella lunga lista dei produttori, a testimonianza del fatto che lo sforzo realizzativo è stato notevole per quello che, a tutti gli effetti, è un ‘filmone’: eppure, malgrado la meritoria denuncia (non va dimenticato che la schiavitù esiste ancora), la notevole partecipazione di tutti quanti, le emozioni comunque suscitate anche grazie alla colonna sonora di Hans Zimmer alternata ai canti di lavoro nelle piantagioni, ’12 anni schiavo’ fatica a colpire nel profondo. Per carità, si tratta sempre di un film che sta tra il buono e l'ottimo, ma forse il fatto che sia tutto chiaro ed esplicito rende impossibili gli angoli bui e i momenti indefiniti che congiurano perchè, ad esempio, una pellicola pur non perfetta come ‘Shame’ si piazzi nell'animo dello spettatore e cresca con il passare del tempo. Expand
  68. Feb 24, 2014
    8
    This movie demonstrates the horrors of that time period so well it is sometimes hard to watch. The acting is fantastic and I think all the actors deserve recognition for their performances. My one big complaint though, is I didn't feel like we got to know the character of Solomon at all. There was not much insight to who he was as a person other then he loves his family. I felt a lot of the supporting roles, in particular Michael Fassbenders, were handled pretty well but it often felt as if we were being shown all these horrific things just because he was there and not so much how it had effected him (Hopefully that comes across how I meant it). But overall definetly worth a see. Expand
  69. Feb 23, 2014
    10
    12 years a slave is not a regular movie ... it's a slavery experience that force your mind to think about similarities between you and "Blat", and by the end asking yourself, Am I really free or just a slave with different master and instructions?...
  70. Feb 23, 2014
    10
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. 12 years a slave is not a movie for the weak hearted. The Movie is an unbelievably true account of the horrors of slavery and it will make you uncomfortable to say the least. Everyone in the cast delivers wonderful performances that further add to the power of the beautiful and vivid imagery that transport you through the journey of Solomon Northup. A freeman who is wrongfully sold into slavery and spends 12 years in the slave trade. Chiwetel Ejiofor delivers a wonderfull yet subtle performance as Northup that further enriches the visual beauty of the movie and helps stay away from the stereotypes of other slave movies that have been over dramatized. Expand
  71. Feb 21, 2014
    7
    Having read before I saw the film that Steve Mcqueen has won a Turner prize I could not help but view the undoubtedly stunning cineography as a separate entity. It made it more difficult to be drawn into the story and empathise with the characters as I felt the director was determined to randomly slot in as many scenery shots as possible at the expense of developing the characters, especially important in a film with little plot. This was borne out by both myself and partner thinking the film was longer than 2hr 15min and neither of us shed a tear - unusual for me! Expand
  72. Feb 21, 2014
    9
    Exceptional acting and great direction. While many are not familiar with Solomon Northup's epic life story, including myself, the film delivers a great execution as if you were the one experiencing all these events that happened in Solomon's life. Steve McQueen really knows how to capture the essence of the theme. Moreover, the acting was EXCEPTIONAL. Big applause for Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, and newcomer Lupita Nyong'o. I'm surprised that Sarah Paulson didn't get the praised that she should've gotten. However, the movie itself is already a box office success, it doesn't need a lot of awards to attract audiences. Expand
  73. Feb 21, 2014
    0
    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.
  74. Feb 20, 2014
    9
    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.
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  75. 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.
  76. Feb 19, 2014
    8
    Sure it's masterfully made in every aspect, but it doesn't explore much more than what Django Unchained did the year before. WWWWWWOOOOORRRRDDDDD MINIMUM
  77. Feb 19, 2014
    10
    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.
  78. Feb 17, 2014
    10
    Steve Mcqueen has paid a tribute to all the people in chains whose stories were lost in the dust of history. The horror of slavery has been shown in its full. Brilliant acting by all the cast.
  79. 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. A journey of pain and it's done. Expand
  80. Feb 13, 2014
    8
    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
  81. Feb 12, 2014
    2
    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.
  82. Feb 11, 2014
    9
    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
  83. Feb 9, 2014
    10
    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.
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  84. 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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  85. Feb 4, 2014
    9
    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.
  86. Feb 4, 2014
    10
    '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.
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  87. Feb 4, 2014
    8
    An excellent and disturbing film. McQueen does a great job presenting all characters as humans, rather than stereotypes, although Brad Pitt's character seemed a bit too saintly. The acting is generally top notch, particularly Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o, and especially Chiwetel Ejiofor. Beautifully shot as well.
  88. Feb 3, 2014
    7
    极其压抑的典型McQueen式电影,虎头蛇尾,进行到后面就乱套,剧情很无聊,一点没有Extraordinary的感觉,几位主演的水准都很平庸,结尾莫名其妙,Hans Zimmer失水准,不过场景很美。
  89. Feb 2, 2014
    8
    It is by no means perfect like so many people and critics have been claiming it to be, but it's still a great film nonetheless! While the story looks and feels like a standard and typical slavery film, it's the acting that really propels this film. The entire all-star cast gives it their all with some great and memorable performances. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a career-defining performance in what is a very emotional and powerful portrayal of Solomon Northrup. Michael Fassbender also gives one of his best performances to date as a cruel plantation owner. Newcomer Lupita Nyong'o gives a well done, yet highly overrated performance as a fellow slave. The reason I'm calling it overrated is because she's won and is up for so many awards for a performance that wasn't even that impressive (Jennifer Lawrence did much better in "American Hustle" and certainty deserves the Oscar over Lupita.) Other actors who did really good, but didn't get much screentime include Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, and Brad Pitt. Overall, while Solomon's story feels a little "been there, done that" in terms of slavery, the acting helps push it along nicely. While it's no doubt that it's a great film, I wouldn't consider it best picture material. I'd be OK with it winning however. It's a great historical and emotional film that's definitely worth seeing! Expand
  90. Jan 31, 2014
    1
    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.
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  91. Jan 28, 2014
    2
    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
  92. Jan 27, 2014
    10
    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.
  93. Jan 25, 2014
    9
    Very powerful movie. It was extremely well done but very hard to watch. Ejiofor's preformance was incrediable and Fassbender's performance as a cruel slave owner makes you cringe. The ending was heart breaking and happy at the same time. I recommend this movie for anybody who will be able to watch them. It's hard but it's worth it.
  94. Jan 25, 2014
    10
    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
  95. Jan 25, 2014
    2
    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...
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  96. Jan 24, 2014
    8
    In case you don't know what you're walking into: this movie is really SAD . There is no sugar coating here, it is a simple portrayal of the injustice and tragedy that happened in the American south before the civil war. At the end, there is no great satisfaction, justice isn't really meted out. A man's life is broken, a family is shaken to its foundation, and emancipation isn't going to bring to justice the wicked people who built and profited from that system. This is not a movie you will enjoy watching, but it is very powerful and it illustrates a real issue very, very vividly. Expand
  97. Jan 22, 2014
    10
    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.
  98. Jan 21, 2014
    10
    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.
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  99. 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
    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. Expand
  100. Jan 19, 2014
    10
    An amazing hard hitting truth about the terrible time Solomon Northup suffered. with an amazing script and actors if there's any justice this film will clean up at the Oscars
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.