12 Years a Slave (15)

Film

Drama

12 Years a Slave

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5

Not yet rated

Be the first...

 

Time Out says

Fri Oct 18 2013

With the release of ‘Django Unchained’ and now this more restrained slavery-era biopic, much has been made of America’s post-Obama willingness to ‘face up to its own past’. But, like Quentin Tarantino before him, British artist turned director Steve McQueen knows that this idea offers only false comfort: ‘12 Years a Slave’ has absolutely no interest in reconciliation, in forgiveness, in making slavery history. McQueen’s film may be stylistically traditional, but its outlook is as confrontational and uncompromising as any ripped-from-the-headlines drama.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is terse, watchful and remote as Solomon Northup, the free New Yorker torn from his family and sold into slavery in the South. We follow his journey from plantation to plantation, under masters both self-congratulatingly benevolent (Benedict Cumberbatch) and wildly, unremittingly brutal (Michael Fassbender).

As expected from the director of ‘Hunger’ and ‘Shame’, this is not a sprawling Spielbergian tearjerker, but neither is it an aloof, artsy affair. McQueen pitches his tent somewhere between the two camps: whenever Hans Zimmer’s overbearing score threatens to drag the film into three-hankie territory, the clinical photography and hard, unflashy performances bring it right back. It’s a film made for a mass audience, but it doesn’t want them to feel comfortable for a second.

What ‘12 Years a Slave’ is really interested in is creating an honest, believable experience: in culture and context, place and people, soil and skin. The result can, at times, be alienating – Solomon may be a tragic, achingly sympathetic figure, but he’s no cathartic hero, no Django. He is, at all times, a victim. Nonetheless, the cumulative emotional effect is devastating: the final scenes here are as angry, as memorable, as overwhelming as anything modern cinema has to offer.

0

Reviews

Add +

Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Fri Jan 10, 2014

Duration:

134 mins

Users say

0
<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

4.2 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:13
  • 4 star:9
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:2
LiveReviews|26
5 people listening
Jeremy Vevers
1 of 1 found helpful

This is certainly one of the most powerful films I have seen. McQeen has allowed space for the dreadfulness of the place to speak. Fellow slaves carry on whilst awful things happen "as though nothing was happening". You see Solomon's face almost filling the screen. There is no hurry as the weight of his plight confronts you the helpless onlooker. But we know it is a story and he must survive. But others don't. The word slavery is not often applied to modern behaviour but we know it goes on. Someone imagining they can own someone else and doing just what they like with that fellow human. This film does stand up for those victims. It shows how demeaning just such cruelty can leave us humans. Everyone over 15 should see this film.

dragonfly
1 of 1 found helpful

an exceptional film , brutally honest beautifully acted and directed . If you have even the remotest inclination to learn something of the horror that slavery is / was GO SEE IT !

Pip
1 of 1 found helpful

Stunning and important movie. Powerful and flooring.

Joseph Hall
1 of 1 found helpful

This is a MUST SEE FILM.. Hard to watch for much of the duration but so important, a real landmark piece. I watched this last week and it's still on my mind. I'd give it 6 stars and make it compulsory viewing for all! (please don't be swayed by critical reviews of specific performances - it's a much bigger film than the sum of it's parts)

r.b.
1 of 1 found helpful

Steve McQueen was already a Master. This film is incredibly bold and brave - how often do you get a director taking on Hollywood and America telling the story they didn't dare to tell. The first shock is that these horrible things happened to thousands of Black American's ancestors. The second shock is why these stories have not previously come through the system. It is rare to grab an audience from the start, bring tears, disgust, anger and many other emotions out and to leave us with images that are unforgettable. The fact that McQueen is British and happens to be of black origin, telling this American story after Shame, makes it all the more compelling. May it win many awards, and change many hearts!

Prince Egege
1 of 1 found helpful

Brilliant piece of history. I hope it makes a difference in our attitudes today.

James G

Do you want to understand why racism is still, after hundreds of years, such a toxic issue in America? Want to know how and why slavery burnt and twisted its way into the psyche of millions of white and black people alike? Want to discover why blacks struggle to 'just get over it'? Go and see this film. As horrific as some of the scenes are, there is plenty of evidence from the historical record that much worse occured, not just in America, but across the Caribbean where the forebears of many our Black British citizens were slaves. Some can't believe men were kidnapped in the way depicted, but again there a mass of evidence to support it (the transatlantic slave trade was outlawed in 1808, so kidnappers flourished in its aftermath). Brilliant, unsentimental, truthful and most of all, relevant.

STeven Green

A powerful and moving story, beautifully told. The acting is superb, the plot gripping and the characters involving.

Zohra Jawed

I watched this last night, moving storyline beautifully told. Even though I'd read about the two main scenes, they knocked me pretty hard. Chiwetel is spectacular to watch.

Edward

A truly brilliant film. I went to see American Hustle the previous week and it felt a lot longer than this although they have a similar running time. 12 Years A Slave should win the Oscar for best actor, director & picture (if not more!). I honestly think it may be the best film of the year come December. It`s finest achievement for such a subject is the lack of sentimentality, Spielberg would of had us crying in buckets!

Paul

Villardi's review below should not forget Briain's deep involvement with the slave trade, its plantations and the fortunes made here, perhaps the next film for McQueen? Yes, it did at times feel sanitised and pulled too many punches given how much worse the story really was. That said, it's a didactic film for people who don't know too much about the Deep South and like their lessons in nice packaging. Good news is that it feels a lot shorter than Wolf of Wall Street.

villardi

Not perfect by any means but always compelling and frequently harrowing and moving. Episodic in nature and lacking continuity at times but knowing this story is basically truthful and these events happened less than 200 years ago. Very brave for an English director to take on America's racist past but I doubt the Academy will have the guts to give it the Oscar for best film. I'd give that to Gravity or Captain Phillips.

critique

Welcome back, Scrumpyjack! Exceptionally intense drama, filmed with typically cold, unflinching precision by McQueen. The final sentence in Tom Huddleston`s review is spot-on.

Scrumpyjack

Hugely impressive............but can't go 5 star due to some persil clean slave togs & 2 or 3 scenes that made me think I was watching a live NT broadcast. I will be in the top 10 of the year (prob. top 5) so DO see....and try to forget my observations!

chris jackson

very good film . shocking and uncomfortable , i wanted to not watch at various points in it. some of the acting is not great a lot of the white characters arent very convincing in particular bradd pitt and ben cumerbatch. in the end i dont give it 5 stars because i dont think its a truly great film.

Juan Carlos

I agree with much that the review says and having read it twice cannot understand how the film got a five star review. In my mind it is just about a 4 star film maybe 7.5 out of 10. Apart from Fassbender and Nyong'o there are no stand out performances and Zimmer's score goes beyond over bearing to at times a cliche drowning out everything else at times. The film almost cudgels you over the head with its message. A good film, at times very good just ever really great. Worth a view but not the revelation the tv ads and reviews would make you believe.

Archgate

Despite an antiseptic feel, and unconvincing performances from Fassbender and Cumberbatch, this is an unflinching insight into one man's misery. Not since Papillon has a film been so miserably spellbinding. I do hope Paul Dano stops gurning in future films. His performance here is very weak.

Ken Lee

Watch: 12 Years A Slave Full Movie - goo.gl/HZJ7qI 12 Years a Slave is a 2013 British-American historical drama film, an adaptation of the 1853 autobiography Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1841 and sold into slavery. He worked on plantations in the state of Louisiana for 12 years before his release. The first scholarly edition of Northup's memoir, co-edited by Sue Eakin and Joseph Logsdon in 1968, carefully retraced and validated his account, finding it to be remarkably accurate. The film is directed by Steve McQueen and written by John Ridley. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup. 12 Years a Slave premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on August 30, 2013. The film was given a limited release in the United States on October 18, 2013, with a nationwide release scheduled for November 1, 2013.

Ken Lee

Watch: 12 Years A Slave Full Movie - goo.gl/HZJ7qI 12 Years a Slave is a 2013 British-American historical drama film, an adaptation of the 1853 autobiography Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1841 and sold into slavery. He worked on plantations in the state of Louisiana for 12 years before his release. The first scholarly edition of Northup's memoir, co-edited by Sue Eakin and Joseph Logsdon in 1968, carefully retraced and validated his account, finding it to be remarkably accurate. The film is directed by Steve McQueen and written by John Ridley. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup. 12 Years a Slave premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on August 30, 2013. The film was given a limited release in the United States on October 18, 2013, with a nationwide release scheduled for November 1, 2013.

Paddy
0 of 1 found helpful

Watch it today and I can't see what the fuss is about. It's a decent film but it didn't really engage me. It's like watching a series of "and then this happened" sketches that never truly connected. I don't think it will be remembered as a classic by any stretch but it seems like any film that deals with a serious subject matter is Oscar worthy regardless of how well the story is told. That said it's worth a watch and is a lot better than American Hustle.

Lucy
0 of 2 found helpful

Horribly violent and upsetting I wanted to walk out. Could not recommend.