12 Years a Slave

"Extraordinary"

12 Years a Slave Review


Much more than a film about 19th century slavery in America, this sharply well-told true story has a lot to say about the world we live in today. And as he did in Hunger and Shame, filmmaker Steve McQueen puts us right into the middle of the story so we live it ourselves. Watching this film is a riveting, unnerving and ultimately moving experience.

It's based on a firsthand account by Solomon Northrup (Ejiofor), a musician who is living with his family in 1841 Saratoga, New York, when two friendly men offer him a great gig. But they drug him and sell him to slave traders, who send him to New Orleans and strip him of his identity. He spends the next 12 years working for two masters. Ford (Cumberbatch) is a fair man who puts him under the watchful eye of the cruel Tibeats (Dano). Then he is sold to Epps (Fassbender), a harsh boss who sends him into cotton fields and angrily suspects that Solomon is more educated than he admits.

Made with an earthy, realistic style, there's a clear sense that McQueen and screenwriter Ridley stuck closely to the details of Northrup's memoir, which was published shortly after his release and became a bestseller at the time. By never indulging in Hollywood-style exaggeration, the events remain grounded in the characters, drawing on the spiky interaction between them. At the centre, Ejiofor is utterly magnetic, delivering a transparent performance that takes our breath away. In his terrified eyes, we experience this horror ourselves.

And the supporting cast is equally strong, with remarkable performances from rising-star actresses Oduye, Paulsen and especially Nyong'o as a fellow slave who has a particularly harrowing experience of her own. (The only false note is Pitt, who tries too hard to be worthy, but his role is pivotal.) In the end, what lifts the film far above the pack is the way it refuses to make anyone a hero or villain. Even the nastiest characters are complex and eerily understandable. Which gives the film a ring of truth that makes it impossible for us to watch without thinking about how slavery is even more rampant today than it was back then, from human trafficking to extraordinary rendition.

Watch the '12 Years a Slave' Trailer



12 Years a Slave

Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 134 mins

In Theaters: Friday 8th November 2013

Budget: $20M

Production compaines: New Regency Pictures, Plan B Entertainment, River Road Entertainment, Regency Enterprises, Film4

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

IMDB: 8.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , , Jeremy Kleiner, Dede Gardner,

Starring: as Solomon Northup, as Edwin Epps, as William Ford, as John Tibeats, as Theophilus Freeman, as Brown, as Patsey, Adepero Oduye as Eliza, as Mary Epps, as Samuel Bass, as Robert (as Michael Kenneth Williams), as Mistress Shaw, as Clemens, as Hamilton, as Radburn, Kelsey Scott as Anne Northup, as Judge Turner, as Margaret Northup, as Armsby, as Uncle Abram, Dickie Gravois as Overseer, Ashley Dyke as Anna, Cameron Zeigler as Alonzo Northup, as Mr. Moon, as Burch, Mister Mackey Jr. as Randall, Craig Tate as John, Storm Reid as Emily, Tom Proctor as Biddee, as Captain, Vivian Fleming-Alvarez as Mulatto Woman, Douglas M. Griffin as Sailor, John McConnell as Jonus Ray, Marcus Lyle Brown as Jasper, Richard Holden as Fitzgerald, as Parker, as Cape, James C. Victor as Buyer (as J. C. Victor), Liza J. Bennett as Mistress Ford, Nicole Collins as Rachel, J.D. Evermore as Chapin (as JD Evermore), Andy Dylan as Treach, Deneen Tyler as Phebe (as Deneen D. Tyler), Mustafa Harris as Sam, Gregory Bright as Edward, Austin Purnell as Bob, Thomas Francis Murphy as Patroller, Andre Shanks as Victim 1, Kelvin Harrison as Victim 2, Scott M. Jefferson as Master Shaw, Isaiah Jackson as Zachary, Topsy Chapman as Slave Spiritual Singer 1, Devin Maurice Evans as Slave Spiritual Singer 2, Jay Huguley as Sheriff, Devyn A. Tyler as Margaret Northup (adult), Willo Jean-Baptiste as Margaret's Husband, as Celeste (uncredited)

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.