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12 Years a Slave (2013)

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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 Rated Movies #201 | Won 3 Oscars. Another 235 wins & 326 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Dickie Gravois ...
Overseer
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Anna
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Cameron Zeigler ...
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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, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty personified by a malevolent slave owner, 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 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 »

Parents Guide:

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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

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Steve McQueen disclosed on The Colbert Report (2005) that when Solomon Northup's autobiography, "12 Years a Slave," was first published in 1853, it sold terribly due to other, more popular books released around the same time. He also said that the interest that the film has generated has put the book back on the bestseller list. See more »

Goofs

When Solomon is being sold to Master Ford, the two nude women in the background both have shaved pubic hair, something virtually impossible in the 1840s. 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 The Chase Australia: Episode #1.36 (2015) See more »

Soundtracks

Run Nigger Run
Collected, Adapted, and Arranged by John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax
Performed by Paul Dano (uncredited)
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Live, not just Survive
27 October 2013 | by (Dallas, Texas) – See all my reviews

Greetings again from the darkness. Should this be labeled a historical drama? Is it one man's extraordinary tale of strength and survival? Does this fall into the "art film" category that so divides the movie-going public? The answer to all is YES, and I would add that it's a masterfully crafted film with exquisite story telling, stunning photography and top notch acting throughout.

The movie is based on the real life and writings of Solomon Northrup, a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery from 1841-53. Northrup's story provides us a look inside the despicable institution of slavery. Needless to say, it's a painful and sad process made even more emotional by the work of director Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame). McQueen takes a very direct approach. Not much is left to the imagination. Torture, abuse, cruelty and misery take up the full screen. The only subtlety comes from the terrific work of Chiwetel Ejiofor as Northrup. His facial expressions and eyes are more powerful and telling than any lines of dialogue could be.

You will not find many details from the movie here. This is one to experience for yourself. It lacks the typical Hollywood agenda when it comes to American history. Instead this era is presented through the eyes of a single wronged man and his quest to return to his wife and kids, no matter the inhumane obstacles. We see Paul Giamatti as an emotionless, all-business slave trader. Benedict Cumberbatch is a plantation owner who has a heart, but lacks business savvy. And finally we enter the world of cotton farmer Michael Fassbender, who twists Bible scripture into threats directed at the slaves - his "property".

Fassbender dives deep into evil to find his character, and along with Ejiofor, Sarah Paulsen (who plays Fassbender's icy wife), and Lupita Nyong'o (who plays slave Patsey, the center of the two most incredible scenes in the film), provide more Oscar worthy performances than any one movie can expect. You will also note Quvenzhane Wallis (as Northrup's daughter) and Dwight Henry (as a slave) in their first appearances since Beasts of the Southern Wild. Other strong support comes from Scoot McNairy, Taran Killam (SNL), Michael K Williams, Alfre Woodward, a nasty Paul Dano, Garret Dillahunt and Adepero Oduye.

Steven Spielberg gave us a taste of the holocaust with Schindler's List, but not since the TV mini-series "Roots" has any project come so close to examining the realities of slavery. Northrup's story seems to be from a different universe than the charming slaves of Gone with the Wind. I would argue that what makes this watchable (though very difficult) is the focus on Northrup's story. While tragic, his ending actually deflects from the ongoing plight of those not so fortunate. It's a story of a man who states he doesn't wish to merely survive, he wants to live a life worth living.

McQueen's direction will certainly be front and center come awards season, as will many of the actors, John Ridley (the screenwriter), Sean Bobbitt (cinematographer) and Hans Zimmer (score). The only question is whether the subject matter is too tough for Oscar voters, who traditionally lean towards projects a bit more mainstream.


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