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12 Years a Slave

Biography . History . Drama

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 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.

Actors: Bryan Batt , Dickie Gravois , Dwight Henry , Brad Pitt , Sarah Paulson , Adepero Oduye , Lupita Nyong'o , Scoot McNairy , Paul Giamatti , Paul Dano , Benedict Cumberbatch , Michael Fassbender , Chiwetel Ejiofor
Directors: Steve McQueen
Country: USA , UK
Release: 2013-11-08
More Info:
  • Steve Persall

    There has never been a movie like 12 Years a Slave, which is Hollywood's shame. Miss it, and that mistake is yours.

    Tampa Bay Times Full Review
  • Bill Goodykoontz

    The acting is outstanding, the direction assured if straightforward. 12 Years a Slave is a history lesson of the best type. It’s brilliant. But, more crucially, it’s important. It’s brutal truth that demands to be seen.

    Arizona Republic Full Review
  • Mick LaSalle

    12 Years a Slave has some of the awkwardness and inauthenticity of a foreign-made film about the United States. The dialogue of the Washington, D.C., slave traders sounds as if it were written for "Lord of the Rings." White plantation workers speak in standard redneck cliches. And yet the ways in which this film is true are much more important than the ways it's false.

    San Francisco Chronicle Full Review
  • Lawrence Toppman

    Most nations, ours included, still tolerate some form of slavery or indentured servitude. And 12 Years shows the cruelty of denying not only someone’s freedom but his identity. Take away the essence of a human being – whether he’s in fetters or not – and you destroy him.

    Charlotte Observer Full Review
  • Calvin Wilson

    Ultimately hopeful, but uncompromising in its commitment to exposing a tragic chapter in history.

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch Full Review
  • Rene Rodriguez

    One of the best things about 12 Years a Slave is that McQueen renders all the characters with the same depth and complexity as his protagonist.

    Miami Herald Full Review
  • Steve Davis

    Brutal yet elegant, 12 Years a Slave is a beautifully rendered punch to the gut about the most shameful chapter in American history.

    Austin Chronicle Full Review
  • Mike Scott

    There's something Shakespearean about it. From the case of mistaken identity (though willfully mistaken) to the formal, old-fashioned language to the tragic tone in which it is all swaddled, this is Shakespeare by way of the Deep South.

    New Orleans Times-Picayune Full Review
  • Steven Rea

    It speaks to the courage and resilience of one man, the savagery of many, and the potential, for both good and for ill, in us all.

    Philadelphia Inquirer Full Review
  • Ty Burr

    12 Years a Slave is to the “peculiar institution” what “Schindler’s List” was to the Holocaust: a work that, finally, asks a mainstream audience to confront the worst of what humanity can do to itself. If there’s no Oskar Schindler here, that’s partly the point.

    Boston Globe Full Review
  • Tom Huddleston

    What 12 Years a Slave is really interested in is creating an honest, believable experience: in culture and context, place and people, soil and skin. The result can, at times, be alienating.

    Time Out London Full Review
  • Bob Mondello

    It is Ejiofor — bewildered, sorely tested, morally towering — whose staggered dignity anchors the film.

    NPR Full Review
  • Liam Lacey

    Far from the push-button catharsis offered by most Hollywood redemption tales, the work is sober and deliberate, a mix of visceral intensity and artful design.

    The Globe and Mail (Toronto) Full Review
  • Andrew O'Hehir

    12 Years a Slave offers no false Hollywood catharsis along with its muted happy ending, because we’re not free from the curse of slavery yet. Looking at it, as it really was, is a start. Full Review
  • Lou Lumenick

    Well-meaning films like “Lincoln’’ and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler’’ merely scratch the surface compared to the deep and painful truths laid bare by 12 Years a Slave. It’s about time, Scarlett O’Hara.

    New York Post Full Review
  • Ann Hornaday

    Intense, unflinching, bold in its simplicity and radical in its use of image, sound and staging, 12 Years a Slave in many ways is the defining epic so many have longed for to examine — if not cauterize — America’s primal wound.

    Washington Post Full Review
  • Richard Roeper

    Unflinchingly directed by Steve McQueen, led by Ejiofor’s magnificent work, 12 Years a Slave is what we talk about when we talk about greatness in film.

    Chicago Sun-Times Full Review
  • Kenneth Turan

    This is impressive filmmaking, but it is not easy to take in.

    Los Angeles Times Full Review
  • Joe Neumaier

    McQueen has made a film comparable to “Schindler’s List” — art that may be hard to watch, but which is an essential look at man’s inhumanity to man. It is wrenching, but 12 Years a Slave earns its tears in a way few films ever do.

    New York Daily News Full Review
  • Claudia Puig

    The harrowing 12 Years a Slave is a mesmerizing period drama for the ages.

    USA Today Full Review
  • Joe Morgenstern

    Movie audiences have never been presented with anything quite like the intertwined beauty and savagery of 12 Years a Slave.

    Wall Street Journal Full Review
  • Michael Phillips

    While this is very much a McQueen picture, with visual flourishes and motifs unmistakably his, the historical urgency and staggering injustice of the events keep McQueen and company utterly honest in their approach and in their collective act of imagining Solomon Northup's odyssey to hell and back.

    Chicago Tribune Full Review
  • Peter Travers

    Proving himself a world-class director, McQueen basically makes slaves of us all. It hurts to watch it. You won't be able to tuck this powder keg in the corner of your mind and forget it. What we have here is a blistering, brilliant, straight-up classic.

    Rolling Stone Full Review
  • Manohla Dargis

    The genius of 12 Years a Slave is its insistence on banal evil, and on terror, that seeped into souls, bound bodies and reaped an enduring, terrible price.

    The New York Times Full Review
  • Owen Gleiberman

    It's Ejiofor's extraordinary performance that holds 12 Years a Slave together.

    Entertainment Weekly Full Review
  • Rex Reed

    If the best films hold you in a captive vise, entertain you, keep you spellbound and teach you something at the same time, then 12 Years a Slave is outstanding — brave, courageous and unforgettable.

    New York Observer Full Review
  • David Fear

    Though McQueen continues to work his themes of suffering and spiritual transcendence, this unflinching, unforgiving drama is not about a slave, but about slavery itself.

    Time Out New York Full Review
  • Roger Moore

    McQueen and his stellar cast take us on a difficult journey, an odyssey that will make you want to avert your eyes. It is to their great credit that we don’t.

    McClatchy-Tribune News Service Full Review
  • David Denby

    12 Years a Slave is easily the greatest feature film ever made about American slavery.

    The New Yorker Full Review
  • Richard Corliss

    A document that is raw, eloquent, horrifying and essential.

    Time Full Review
  • Tim Robey

    Elicits from McQueen a directing job that's compellingly humble but also majestic, because his radical showmanship is turned to such precise, human purposes.

    The Telegraph Full Review
  • Paul MacInnes

    Stark, visceral and unrelenting, 12 Years a Slave is not just a great film but a necessary one.

    The Guardian Full Review
  • Peter Debruge

    Though the film brims with memorable characters, the show ultimately belongs to Ejiofor, who upholds the character’s dignity throughout.

    Variety Full Review
  • Eric Kohn

    More than a powerful elegy, 12 Years a Slave is a mesmerizing triumph of art and polemics: McQueen turns a topic rendered distant by history into an experience that, short of living through the terrible era it depicts, makes you feel as if you've been there.

    indieWIRE Full Review
  • A.A. Dowd

    If there was any doubt that this is a horror movie, Hans Zimmer’s score pounds and roars with dread — the appropriate soundtrack for the madness of history.

    The A.V. Club Full Review
  • Chris Willman

    This revolving door of graphically rendered brutalities might feel like its own punishment if not for an array of astonishing performances that’s practically a one-stop Oscar-nomination shopping spree.

    The Playlist Full Review
  • Dana Stevens

    It’s the unhappiest happy ending I’ve ever seen, a moment that makes you weep not just for this one man who found his way back to freedom, but for all those men and women who never knew it in the first place.

    Slate Full Review
  • Scott Tobias

    [McQueen's] film is a tough, soul-sickening, uncompromising work of art that makes certain that when viewers talk about the evils of slavery, they know its full dimension.

    The Dissolve Full Review
  • Todd McCarthy

    Perhaps the nature of the story is such that the film can’t help but be obvious and quite melodramatic at times, but it gets better as it goes along and builds to a moving finish.

    The Hollywood Reporter Full Review
  • James Berardinelli

    12 Years a Slave is by no means light entertainment but it provides a more worthwhile cinematic experience than about 90% of what's out there and the impressions it leaves aren't easily dismissed or dispelled.

    ReelViews Full Review
  • Susan Wloszczyna

    A somber, meditative, almost poetic film that delivers the horrors of bondage stripped down and head-on. Full Review
  • William Goss

    Ejiofor’s tightly clenched conviction perfectly embodies hope and righteousness against all odds. He gives the best performance of his career to date, and what’s more, he gives “Slave” its bruised, beating heart with every scene. Full Review
  • Emma Dibdin

    Visceral, vital and anchored by its earnest performances, this is a potent portrait of a shameful historical truth.

    Total Film Full Review
  • Ian Freer

    Falling between the twin pillars of the art house and prestige period flick, 12 Years A Slave is history lesson as horror film, powerful, visceral and affecting. And after years of being great in everything, Chiwetel Ejiofor shines in a lead worthy of his immense talent.

    Empire Full Review
  • Stephanie Zacharek

    12 Years a Slave works so hard to be noble, but it doesn't have to: Ejiofor is there to do all the heavy lifting.

    Village Voice Full Review
  • Peter Rainer

    I wish the truly searing moments in this film were not continually counterbalanced by an overall historical-reenactment stiffness in the presentation.

    Christian Science Monitor Full Review
  • David Edelstein

    The movie nails all this, and it’s smashingly effective as melodrama. But McQueen’s directorial voice — cold, stark, deterministic — keeps it from attaining the kind of grace that marks the voice of a true film artist.

    New York Magazine (Vulture) Full Review
  • Ed Gonzalez

    Steve McQueen's film practically treats Solomon Norhtup as passive observer to a litany of horrors that exist primarily for our own education.

    Slant Magazine Full Review
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