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12 Years a Slave (2013)

8.2
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 222,291 users   Metascore: 97/100
Reviews: 539 user | 535 critic | 48 from Metacritic.com

In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.

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(screenplay), (based on "Twelve Years a Slave" by)
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Top 250 #152 | Won 3 Oscars. Another 187 wins & 172 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Overseer
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Mister Mackey Jr. ...
Randall
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Storyline

Based on an incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender), as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon's chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) will forever alter his life. Written by Fox Searchlight

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The extraordinary true story of Solomon Northup


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence/cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality | See all certifications »

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Details

Official Sites:

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Country:

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Language:

Release Date:

8 November 2013 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Twelve Years a Slave  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Budget:

$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$923,715 (USA) (18 October 2013)

Gross:

$56,667,870 (USA) (2 May 2014)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Steve McQueen's daughter told him to hire Sarah Paulson after viewing her audition tape because she found her scary. See more »

Goofs

When Edwin Epps is chasing Soloman, he tries to cut him off by running through a pig pen. Epps slips and falls in the pen getting his clothes incredibly dirty, yet in the next shot his clothes are clean with no evidence that he had fallen. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Overseer: Alright now, y'all fresh niggers. Y'all gonna be in the cuttin' gang.
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Connections

Referenced in Chelsea Lately: Episode #7.154 (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

My Lord, Sunshine
Written by Nicholas Britell
Performed by Roosevelt Credit and David Hughey
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
A direct telling of the horrors, but not quite the complexities, of a man kidnapped into slavery
2 March 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Who can possibly argue against the power of this kind of movie, and the injustice that it waves as a welcome reminder? Superbly directed and acted (especially leading man Chiwetel Ejofor playing Solomon Northup), and set with high levels of realism in pre-Civil War America, there is little to separate what the filmmakers intended and what they achieved. A work of excellence.

It is not, however, quite the masterpiece it might have been. I don't mean the story or the level of competence here at all. I mean the way the story is told, the choice to simply tell it like it was.

That means that the presentation is quite linear (excepting a few gratuitous flashbacks that seem like a last minute editing decision). And uncomplicated. This is the biggest surprise. I mean, the basics might seem enough—a free black man in Saratoga goes to Washington and is kidnapped and made a slave, and he remains a slave until his recovery 12 years later. But that is actually the entire movie.

Oh, I know, the details are missing in that sentence. But it is these details where the movie succeeds too well. We are shown the horrors of slavery and made to experience them. It isn't that this is ignoble or unimportant. On the contrary, this is an "important" film and should be seen. But in some weirdly surreal way, we already know everything that happens in these details.

Do we need to see a woman, naked and tied to a post, whipped and whipped and whipped, with screaming in our ears? Many will say yes. We need to feel that horror even a little bit (through a movie) to understand how utterly unbelievably horrible slavery was. I would just argue back that I don't really want to be tortured directly to confirm what I already fully agree with. It's just a choice you want to make as a moviegoer. It's similar to watching a kidnapping movie—do you want to experience the inner and outer torments of the kidnapped, or see some larger view of a kidnapping situation and the complexities of that kind of plot?

For me, then the movie was excellent at being literal, but that's not enough. For example, there is absolutely no hint at what the family did when Solomon didn't return home after his trip to Washington. Did they search? Worry? How? Who helped, who ignored them? Etc. That's just one of many complexities the movie avoids for the sake of a direct experience of the protagonist.

I hope that gives a sense of where this unpleasant, terrific movie leaves you, and whether to watch it.


8 of 11 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Why so many Europeans involved in making ? Tidlefriction
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Yeah, Uh Huh, Did Not Deserve Oscar!!! pilotridge101
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