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12 Years a Slave (2013)

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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 282,842 users   Metascore: 97/100
Reviews: 594 user | 561 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 #174 | Won 3 Oscars. Another 221 wins & 212 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Uncle Abram
Dickie Gravois ...
Overseer
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Judge Turner
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Anna
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Mr. Moon
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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 »

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)
 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This movie marks the reuniting of Dwight Henry and Quvenzhané Wallis, both from Louisiana, where the film was shot, who had been acclaimed just months before for their first acting roles when they costarred in Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012). However, they do not share any scenes together. See more »

Goofs

When "Platt" is explaining how to bring the logs down the river, the overseer scornfully asks him where he became an expert in engineering and "terraforming." This a word coined by science fiction author Jack Williamson in 1942, almost exactly 100 years after the scene takes place. See more »

Quotes

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

Connections

Referenced in Film 2014: Episode dated 5 February 2014 (2014) See more »

Soundtracks

Run Nigger Run
Collected, Adapted and Arranged by John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax
Performed by Paul Dano (uncredited)
See more »

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.


16 of 22 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Good film, but the direction/editing kept it from being great for me Goosfrabah
so... basically the US were worse than the Third Reich? Uwinator
I dont know if they ever explain this uriel_zuno
Wasn't it obvious to them? Despenjaporcs
Was Mistress Shaw actually the Plantation owner's wife? rrusa
No wonder Blacks hate Whites Tidlefriction
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