12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave Image
Metascore
97

Universal acclaim - based on 48 Critics What's this?

User Score
8.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 1053 Ratings

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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 47 out of 48
  2. Negative: 0 out of 48
  1. Reviewed by: Tim Robey
    Sep 14, 2013
    100
    Elicits from McQueen a directing job that's compellingly humble but also majestic, because his radical showmanship is turned to such precise, human purposes.
  2. 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.
  3. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Oct 16, 2013
    100
    It's Ejiofor's extraordinary performance that holds 12 Years a Slave together.
  4. Reviewed by: Liam Lacey
    Oct 17, 2013
    100
    Far from the push-button catharsis offered by most Hollywood redemption tales, the work is sober and deliberate, a mix of visceral intensity and artful design.
  5. Reviewed by: Steve Davis
    Oct 31, 2013
    100
    Brutal yet elegant, 12 Years a Slave is a beautifully rendered punch to the gut about the most shameful chapter in American history.
  6. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Oct 17, 2013
    90
    It’s the unhappiest happy ending I’ve ever seen, a moment that makes you weep not just for this one man who found his way back to freedom, but for all those men and women who never knew it in the first place.
  7. Reviewed by: Ed Gonzalez
    Sep 13, 2013
    50
    Steve McQueen's film practically treats Solomon Norhtup as passive observer to a litany of horrors that exist primarily for our own education.

See all 48 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Negative: 25 out of 207
  1. 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
    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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  2. Nov 29, 2013
    10
    This is one the best movies I have seen this year. I thought the movie did not pander to our at least mine common thoughts about slavery.This is one the best movies I have seen this year. I thought the movie did not pander to our at least mine common thoughts about slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofor is a wonderful actor and did a very good job here. Expand
  3. Oct 18, 2013
    10
    Chiwetel Ejiofor is so impressive in this incredibly intense, visceral film. (When it ended, nobody in my theater moved for a period of time,Chiwetel Ejiofor is so impressive in this incredibly intense, visceral film. (When it ended, nobody in my theater moved for a period of time, and there was no round of applause mostly, it seemed, because of the shock of it all. Clapping didn’t seem like the right thing to do.) The fact that we experience the story from the perspective of a kidnapped free man makes the film instantly relatable. I was so happy to have watched all of Tom Fontana’s excellent “Copper” which features an African American civil war veteran doctor living in New York, and all of his family’s struggles in Five Points. Solomon, a New Yorker kidnapped from Washington DC, could be any of us. The Southern landscape as it likely existed in those days provides such a beautiful-yet- eerie backdrop to this movie. What I particularly appreciate the fact that all the shots are confined you never see very far into the distance. There’s never any perspective on things. When the boat transporting the kidnapped south moves, you see the paddlewheels. On the plantations, you see the three or four acres where the slaves live. You never get any aerial shots, which is so effective in giving you a disoriented, lost feel. Even if Solomon wants to escape, he has no idea where the hell he is, and neither do we. The acting in general is uniformly excellent. Fassbender? Wow. Not since Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List has an actor put out so completely for the detestable guy role and to such great effect. Collapse
  4. Mar 24, 2015
    9
    به تصویر کشیدن تبعیض نژادی با بهره گیری از موسیقی متن خوب و بازی های احساسی که ممکنه اشک شما رو هم در بیاره..به تصویر کشیدن تبعیض نژادی با بهره گیری از موسیقی متن خوب و بازی های احساسی که ممکنه اشک شما رو هم در بیاره..
  5. 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 thisThe 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
  6. Feb 5, 2015
    7
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Objective Subjection

    The scarcity of film stock in 1920s Russia spawned innovations in editing. When a Film Professor intercut a poker-faced head-shot with highly-charged discarded footage, his students marvelled at the acting. Soviet montage pioneers also discovered they could lurk considerably longer on a distant shot than on a close up.

    Steve McQueen, a black Brit, does a splendid job retelling the cruelest, and perhaps the most troubling period in American history. The contentious subject alone makes it a necessary Oscar contender. A lot of slack available here. Regardless of the style, if the issue is treated with respect it will get respect. Anytime the movie lulls, the audience will inevitably meditate on history's horrible transgressions. Still, people don't go to the cinema to be shamed or reminded of past horrors. So stylizing the movie with foreign objectivity prevents it from getting weepy or sentimental. The complexion and complexness of the story is elevated by plantation owner Edwin Apps' (Michael Fassbender's) justifications. Slavery was legal. Period. Morality is not an issue. Don't blame him, blame the law. Just the way it's still apparently legal to kill Blacks in Florida with its disturbingly primitive Stand Your Ground law. The complexity in 12YAS is supplemented by Fassbender's overall bizarre, eccentric and exceptional behaviour. He even works the fields himself. His transgressions are further justified by deflecting much of the blame on his jealous wife, another marginalized figure. Subjugation is relative and hierarchal. The issue of slavery is even further complicated by abolitionist Bass (Brad Pitt) who, intentionally or not, comes off as a liberal putz.

    It's a bold and powerful film all right, due largely to the subject at hand, if not McQueen's aloof presentation. The film gives us a formal study of callous persecution. It's framed with a stoic examination of impartiality intercut with readymade emotional content. McQueen at once immerses and detaches us from the human suffering constituted by American slavery. Notice how long he manages to linger on the hanging scene by shooting it at a distance. Lupita Nyong'o is nominated for an Oscar because her character suffers deeply. Her acting was heightened by basic editing techniques. Leave out the whipping scene or simply remove the shot of the deep, bloodied tracks lashed on her back, and she probably wouldn't be in the running. Similarly, the subject of slavery is so vexing and all-consuming that Chiwetel Ejiofor can play Solomon Northup entirely with detached resignation.
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  7. Mar 3, 2014
    0
    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

See all 207 User Reviews

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