12 Years a Slave

( 3 )

Overview

Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave stars Chiwetel Ejifor as Solomon Northup, a free black man in 1840s America. He makes his living as a fiddle player, and his wife is a teacher. He is shanghaied by a pair of nefarious white men, and soon finds himself on a ship headed to New Orleans where he is informed he will be called Platt and is sold into slavery by an unscrupulous businessman (Paul Giamatti). As he toils away for the kindhearted but conflicted plantation owner Mr. Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), who recognizes ...
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Overview

Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave stars Chiwetel Ejifor as Solomon Northup, a free black man in 1840s America. He makes his living as a fiddle player, and his wife is a teacher. He is shanghaied by a pair of nefarious white men, and soon finds himself on a ship headed to New Orleans where he is informed he will be called Platt and is sold into slavery by an unscrupulous businessman (Paul Giamatti). As he toils away for the kindhearted but conflicted plantation owner Mr. Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), who recognizes that Platt is both educated and an artist, he butts head with Ford's underlings, especially the casually cruel Tibeats (Paul Dano). After they have a violent altercation, Ford fears for his slave's life and sells him to Mr. Epps (Michael Fassbender), an alcoholic sadist who owns a cotton plantation. Though Epps reads from the bible to his property, as he frequently refers to his slaves, he is himself not immune to sins of the flesh. He has taken the young Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o) - his best cotton picker -- as his lover, and this doesn't sit well at all with his severe wife (Sarah Paulson), whose particular hatred for blacks and her jealousy fuels her many degrading actions toward Patsey. Solomon bides his time, attempts to preserve a modicum of self-respect, and waits for the chance to reclaim his rightful name as well as his family.
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Special Features

A historical portrait; Explore Director Steve McQueen's unique artistry in bringing this remarkable story to life in this documentary including cast and crew interviews; The team; The score
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
With his first two films, Hunger and Shame, British director Steve McQueen showed a masterful command of style and an ambition to tackle important topics. His third movie, 12 Years a Slave, takes on the institution of American slavery, a subject that comes so loaded with potential blowback that few artists ever attempt to deal with it head-on. He succeeds so strongly that the film's power is only mitigated, and not undone, by a third act that fails as storytelling even though it's likely historically accurate. The uniformly excellent cast is headed by Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, a free black man in 1840s America. He makes his living as a fiddle player, while his wife is a teacher. However, he is soon shanghaied by a pair of nefarious white men and finds himself on a ship headed to New Orleans; he is informed that he will now be called Platt, and is sold into slavery by an unscrupulous businessman (Paul Giamatti, more frightening than you ever expected he could be). As he toils away for the kindhearted but conflicted plantation owner Mr. Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), who recognizes that Solomon is both educated and an artist, he butts heads with Ford's underlings, especially the casually cruel Tibeats (Paul Dano). After they have a violent altercation, Ford fears for his slave's life and sells him to Mr. Epps (Michael Fassbender), an alcoholic sadist who owns a cotton plantation. Though Epps reads the Bible to his property (as he frequently calls his slaves), he himself is not immune to the sins of the flesh. He has taken the young Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o) -- his best cotton picker -- as his lover, and this doesn't sit well at all with his severe wife (Sarah Paulson), whose jealousy and hatred for blacks fuel her many degrading punishments toward her husband's paramour. Meanwhile, Solomon bides his time, attempts to preserve a modicum of self-respect, and waits for the chance to reclaim his rightful name and his family. From a sheer storytelling standpoint, 12 Years a Slave pulls off something nearly impossible. Screenwriter John Ridley was given a lead character who has no control over his own life -- unable to flee or fight back in any meaningful way, Solomon does little more than suffer and try to persevere. That kind of character is the death of drama, but Ridley has plotted the movie ingeniously so that each scene follows logically from the actions of the previous one. This is not a random collection of horrific incidents that happened to one man; it's a harrowing explanation of exactly how and why these atrocities occurred. McQueen's grand ambitions are revealed in his overall theme, which is to show how Solomon is far from the only victim of this inhumane institution. He efficiently and effectively details how every single person who comes in contact with slavery is corrupted by its vileness. What the slaveholders do to maintain their power alters them for the worse in very real ways -- that shines through in the characters of Epps and Ford. Additionally, the victims of slavery do terrible things to survive that will leave them scarred forever. That point is driven home in the movie's best-written scene: a conversation between Solomon, Patsey, and Mistress Shaw (Alfre Woodard), an older black woman who enjoys formal afternoon tea and has servants who wait on her, all because the master of the house practically treats her as a wife. Shaw delivers a monologue full of anger and self-defensive justification for her own actions, but never drops the veil of civility. It's a showstopping scene that doesn't stand out by being better than the rest of the film, but because it's the most artistically powerful evocation of McQueen's overarching point. The other aspect that helps elevate 12 Years a Slave is that, while tackling such an important topic, it never feels self-important. The director doesn't think he's teaching you anything you don't know, and he feels no need to pass judgment or to reassure you that all of this is awful because he trusts that you're already well aware. There isn't any condescension in the movie -- just a desire to tell this one story, and in so doing expose how such a malevolent system eroded everyone who was a part of it. By presenting that theme with such purpose and clarity, McQueen allows his viewers to consider how the echoes of that time reverberate to the modern day. Also, while the film doesn't flinch from the disturbing violence that was commonplace in that era, it never wallows in the degradation. We are witness to nightmarish brutality, but it's presented in a way that makes it clear that McQueen trusts you are already horrified and don't need to have your buttons pressed. The only thing undercutting the movie is a third act that is a total dramatic cheat. The climactic confrontation between Epps, his wife, Patsey, and Solomon feels redundant by the time it finally occurs. The choices Solomon makes in that scene should destroy us emotionally, but McQueen has so assuredly expressed his point-of-view that there's an inevitability to this conflict, no matter how well-acted and artfully staged it is. Additionally, the story's deus ex machina resolution adds to the sense that the movie runs just a little too long, even if it's never dull. Like Spielberg's Schindler's List or Polanski's The Pianist, 12 Years a Slave is admirable, important, and serious filmmaking that is antithetical to what most people think of as entertainment. While it might not be perfect, it demands and deserves your attention.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 3/4/2014
  • UPC: 024543881018
  • Original Release: 2013
  • Rating:

  • Source: 20TH CENTURY FOX
  • Region Code: A
  • Presentation: Color
  • Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Language: English, Español, Français
  • Time: 2:14:00
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Sales rank: 4,356

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Chiwetel Ejiofor Solomon Northup
Michael Fassbender Edwin Epps
Brad Pitt Bass
Benedict Cumberbatch Ford
Paul Giamatti Freeman
Sarah Paulson Mistress Epps
Paul Dano Tibeats
Lupita Nyong'o Patsey
Alfre Woodard Mistress Shaw
Michael Kenneth Williams Robert
Scoot McNairy Brown
Garret Dillahunt Armsby
Dwight Henry Uncle Abram
Dickie Gravois Overseer
Bryan Batt Judge Turner
Ashley Dyke Anna
Kelsey Scott Anne Northup
Quvenzhané Wallis Margaret Northup, Margaret Northup (adult)
Tony Bentley Mr. Moon
Taran Killam Hamilton
Christopher Berry Burch
Bill Camp Radburn
Mister Mackey Jr. Randall
Chris Chalk Clemens
Craig Tate John
Adepero Oduye Eliza
Storm Reid Emily
Tom Proctor Biddee
Marc Macaulay Captain
Vivian Fleming-Alvarez Mulatto Woman
Douglas M. Griffin Sailor
John McConnell Jonus Ray
Marcus Lyle Brown Jasper
Richard Holden Fitzgerald
Robert Steinberg Parker
Anwan Glover Cape
J.C. Victor Buyer
Liza J. Bennett Mistress Ford
Nicole Collins Rachel
J.D. Evermore Chapin
Andy Dylan Treach
Deneen D. Tyler Phebe
Mustafa Harris Sam
Gregory Bright Edward
Austin Purnell Bob
Thomas Francis Murphy Patroller
Andre Shanks Victim 1
Kelvin Harrison Victim 2
Scott M. Jefferson Master Shaw
Isaiah Jackson Zachary
Topsy Chapman Slave Spiritual Singer
Devin Maurice Evans Slave Spiritual Singer
Jay Huguley Sheriff
Willo Jean-Baptiste Margaret's Husband
Cameron Zeigler Alonzo Northup
Technical Credits
Steve McQueen Director, Producer, Screenwriter
Jean A. Black Makeup
Sean Bobbitt Camera Operator, Cinematographer
Nana Fischer Makeup
Andrée Fortier Costumes/Costume Designer
Dede Gardner Producer
Henry Louis Gates Jr. Consultant/advisor
Matthew Gatlin Set Decoration/Design
Anthony Katagas Producer
Jeremy Kleiner Producer
Francine Maisler Casting
Arnon Milchan Producer
Nikki Brown Makeup
Pat Norris Costumes/Costume Designer
Brad Pitt Producer
Bill Pohlad Producer
Denise Pugh-Ruiz Makeup
John Ridley Executive Producer, Screenwriter
Tessa Ross Executive Producer
Walter Schneider Set Decoration/Design
Leslie Shatz Sound/Sound Designer
Carl Sprague Set Decoration/Design
David Stein Art Director
Bianca Stigter Associate Producer
Adam Stockhausen Production Designer
Doug Torres Asst. Director
Joe Walker Editor
Jim Wallis Set Decoration/Design
Hans Zimmer Score Composer
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 4, 2014

    A powerful story and a beautiful film! It was absolutely worthy

    A powerful story and a beautiful film! It was absolutely worthy of the Oscar it received.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 18, 2014

    I purchased this film without having seen it because I'd heard s

    I purchased this film without having seen it because I'd heard so many flattering things. At the risk of upsetting those who love this film I have to say that while it was a decently made film and opened the eyes to what slavery really involved I'm still not sure that it was worthy of a Best Picture Oscar. I've watched it several times and it was a moving experience but somehow I always hear myself saying "that was it?" at the end of the film. I enjoyed this film and have no desire to detract from it's merits but I remain unchanged with regard to it's Oscar worthiness.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2014

    Excellent. Easily one of the finest films ever made. Lupita Nyo

    Excellent. Easily one of the finest films ever made. Lupita Nyong'o Ocar win was inevitable. Perhaps the best performance by an actress in history.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews