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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.

Director:

Steve McQueen

Writers:

John Ridley (screenplay by), Solomon Northup (based on "Twelve Years a Slave" by)
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Popularity
583 ( 21)
Top Rated Movies #199 | Won 3 Oscars. Another 236 wins & 326 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Chiwetel Ejiofor ... Solomon Northup
Dwight Henry ... Uncle Abram
Dickie Gravois Dickie Gravois ... Overseer
Bryan Batt ... Judge Turner
Ashley Dyke ... Anna
Kelsey Scott ... Anne Northup
Quvenzhané Wallis ... Margaret Northup
Cameron Zeigler Cameron Zeigler ... Alonzo Northup
Tony Bentley ... Mr. Moon
Scoot McNairy ... Brown
Taran Killam ... Hamilton
Christopher Berry ... Burch
Bill Camp ... Radburn
Mister Mackey Jr. Mister Mackey Jr. ... Randall
Chris Chalk ... Clemens
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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:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official site | See more »

Country:

USA | UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

8 November 2013 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Twelve Years a Slave See more »

Filming Locations:

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$923,715, 20 October 2013, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$56,671,993

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$187,733,202
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS (Digital DTS Sound)| Dolby Digital | SDDS | Dolby Surround 7.1

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Along with Gravity (2013), this is the first film to tie for Best Picture at the Producer Guild Awards. See more »

Goofs

When Solomon Northup was playing the violin in the early scenes, the violin strings were made from synthetic material. The material at the time would have been catgut. See more »

Quotes

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

Connections

Featured in CollegeHumor Originals: The Oscars for Frat Bros (2014) See more »

Soundtracks

Cotton Song
Written by Nicholas Britell
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
A disturbing but powerful portrayal of slavery in America
3 November 2013 | by parallel_projectionSee all my reviews

Directed by Steve McQueen and staring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict CUmberbatch, newcomer Lupita Nyong'o, and a ton of other stars, '12 Years a Slave' is based on the memoir of Solomon Northup, a freeman who was living in Saratoga, NY before being tricked, drugged, and sold into slavery in the south.

McQueen is an auteur known for his honest and brutal direction, and he keeps filming when others would shut the camera off or look away. While making the picture that much more difficult to sit through, his steadfastness greatly elevates the emotional impact of the film. It's a must-see, if only for educational purposes—just as 'Schindler's List' is used to teach about the Holocaust and 'Milk' about the struggle for gay rights.

I'm not trying to compare the events depicted in this film with the events depicted in those I just mentioned, all I'm saying is that they are all equally important in portraying the reality of their respective situations. There is a moment in '12 Years a Slave' when, as a form of punishment, Northup is hanged by his neck, the tips of his toes just able to reach the ground below him. The camera stays on him for a few minutes. It is silent, and all you can do is listen to him struggling for breath.

This is one of the more disturbing moments in the film, but not the worst. Eventually, Northup is sold to Edwin Epps, a short-tempered and impulsive plantation owner portrayed by Michael Fassbender. He is by far the most villainous and terrifying character in the film, and Fassbender brilliantly captures his mood swings and tempestuous personality.

It is Chiwetel Ejiofor, however, who steals the show. He brings so much life to Northup, and completely disappears into his characters. He is able to depict so many deep levels of emotion, while also bringing dignity to a man who was unwilling to let anyone take away his will to "live" rather than just "survive." Additionally, Lupita Nyong'o, in her first big film role, is mesmerizing as Patsey, and hardworking and desperate woman, and the object of her master Epps's attention. She is hated by Epps's wife—masterfully played by Sarah Paulson— and most of the more dramatic moments in the film revolve around her character's tragic story.

If I have one complaint, it's that 12 years do not seem to pass by at all, mainly because none of the characters substantially age. Also, Brad Pitt is thrown in for ten minutes to depict a kind-hearted abolitionist, and while he does a good job, it just feels like Brad Pitt on a slave plantation, which is totally out of place.

Regardless, while the film may be harrowing and difficult to sit through, it is simply brilliant all the way through, and by far the most honest depiction of slavery that I've ever seen.


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