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 698 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 172
  1. 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 Expand
  2. Dec 13, 2013
    10
    Incredible film. Steve McQueen displays proficiency as a filmmaker in this masterfully crafted and brutal look at slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives one of the most compelling performances in cinema history, giving a multi-layered portrayal of the daily horrors suffered by his character. Other performances from Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o deserve recognition for the amount of sophistication brought to these roles. Not to mention that the cinematography and sets for this film were amazing. This is a movie that deserves to be seen, and is easily the best so far this year. Expand
  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, and there was no round of applause mostly, it seemed, because of the shock of it all. Clapping didn’t seem like the right thing to do.) The fact that we experience the story from the perspective of a kidnapped free man makes the film instantly relatable. I was so happy to have watched all of Tom Fontana’s excellent “Copper” which features an African American civil war veteran doctor living in New York, and all of his family’s struggles in Five Points. Solomon, a New Yorker kidnapped from Washington DC, could be any of us. The Southern landscape as it likely existed in those days provides such a beautiful-yet- eerie backdrop to this movie. What I particularly appreciate the fact that all the shots are confined you never see very far into the distance. There’s never any perspective on things. When the boat transporting the kidnapped south moves, you see the paddlewheels. On the plantations, you see the three or four acres where the slaves live. You never get any aerial shots, which is so effective in giving you a disoriented, lost feel. Even if Solomon wants to escape, he has no idea where the hell he is, and neither do we. The acting in general is uniformly excellent. Fassbender? Wow. Not since Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List has an actor put out so completely for the detestable guy role and to such great effect. Expand
  4. 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
  5. 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. Expand
  6. 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
  7. 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.
    Expand

See all 172 User Reviews

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