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Blu-ray Review: 12 Years a Slave

March 4, 2014

12 Years a Slave Blu-ray Cover12 Years a Slave – A Fox Searchlight Release

http://www.12yearsaslave.com

Blu-ray Release Date: March 4th, 2014

Rated 14A for brutal violence, sexual violence, disturbing content

Running time: 134 minutes

Steve McQueen (dir.)

John Ridley (screenplay)

Based on the book Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

Hans Zimmer (music)

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup

Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps

Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey

Benedict Cumberbatch as Ford

Paul Dano as Tibeats

Paul Giamatti as Freeman

Sarah Paulson as Mistress Epps

Brad Pitt as Bass

Our reviews below:

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12 Years a Slave Blu-ray Review By John Corrado

**** (out of 4)

The year is 1841, and Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a free man living with his family in New York, but this freedom is taken from him when he gets abducted and sold into slavery.  Struggling to survive as he faces cruelty at the hands of plantation worker John Tibeats (Paul Dano) and abusive slave owner Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), who brutally inflicts abuse upon his workers including the young Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o), Solomon also encounters unexpected kindness from a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt).

Based on a true story, director Steve McQueen does an excellent job of viscerally recreating this brutal time in American history.  Chiwetel Ejiofor is deeply affecting as he plays off the brilliant ensemble cast, delivering a performance filled with unforgettable moments of both hope and fear, emotions that are counteracted by the terrifying evil that Michael Fassbender brings to his role.  Newcomer Lupita Nyong’o is heartbreaking as her character endures unspeakable abuse, and these performances are matched by striking cinematography.  The deserving winner of three Oscars – Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave is essential viewing, a powerful work of art that forces us to stare down these horrors of the past.  Please read my full thoughts right here.

The Blu-ray includes two featurettes and a “behind the scenes” documentary.

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12 Years a Slave Blu-ray Review By Erin V.

**** (out of 4)

Based on the true story and book by Solomon Northup, 12 Years a Slave is a powerful story of Solomon (Chiwetal Ejiofor) – a free man living in New York – who was abducted and sold into slavery in Louisiana in the 1800s.

Through the 12 years of his life where he was renamed ‘Platt’ and forced to work in brutal conditions, he kept his faith that one day he would get to see his wife and two children again and be free.  Over the time working on the plantations, he met many others – most born into slavery and without ever having the chance or hope that he had to be free again.  Among these was Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) who like many pretty young women was forced to not just work in the fields but to ‘satisfy’ the master as well.  Most of the story takes place on master Epps’ (Michael Fassbender) cotton plantation, and it is here where Patsey and Solomon meet.  Over the course of the story, we are drawn into a world of injustice, and the terrible reminder that this was actually a part of not so distant history.

The film is brutal in its portrayals of whipping and violence against the slaves, and for that reason is not appropriate for young viewers.  But those 16+ can definitely handle the film and it is an important one that deserves to be seen and discussed.

On the technical side as well, 12 Years a Slave has few faults.  Besides the acting and directing by Steve McQueen, the cinematography throughout is stunningly simple, and adds to the power of the performances.  The score by Hans Zimmer also works very well.  12 Years a Slave was nominated for nine Oscars, and won a very deserving three – Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Lupita Nyong’o’s heart wrenching performance as Patsey.  Now that it’s on DVD, if you haven’t already seen it, it’s worth a look.

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12 Years a Slave Blu-ray Review By Nicole

**** (out of 4)

What does it take to persevere through unimaginable torture?  12 years a Slave tells the remarkable autobiography of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a wealthy, free-born African American man who was kidnapped from his wife and children, and sold into slavery.  He is brutalized by his psychopathic owner, Edwin Epps (chillingly played by Michael Fassbender), who takes random passages of the Bible and uses them to justify his wickedness.  While the evil practice of slavery often leaves Solomon feeling helpless, he still holds out for freedom.  He also befriends fellow slave Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o), a teenage victim of Epps’ sexual assaults.

Lupita Nyong’o’s performance, while fairly brief, is extremely powerful and fully deserving of her Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress.  While extremely hard to watch, this is a very powerful film that captures the brutality of slavery, and the power of the human spirit.  12 Years a Slave is completely deserving of its Best Picture win.

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12 Years a Slave Blu-ray Review By Maureen

**** (out of 4)

Director Steve McQueen’s powerful film 12 Years a Slave holds nothing back in showing the harsh and brutal realities of how countless African American men, women and children were rounded up and sold like livestock into a life of slavery in the 19th century United States.  Based on his 1853 memoirs, 12 Years a Slave tells the story of how Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) went from living with his wife and children as a free man in Saratoga Springs, New York, to being drugged, kidnapped and sold by a slave trader (Paul Giamatti), and forced into manual labour on Southern plantations.

Solomon Northup’s next twelve years involved ownership by the relatively kind Master Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), brutal treatment by Ford’s overseer, the cruel Tibeats (Paul Dano), then ownership by harsh and frequently drunk plantation owner Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), whose fondness for young and pretty black slaves like Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) disgusts Northup.  It’s only when Solomon Northup works with a Canadian builder, Bass (Brad Pitt) that a ray of hope starts to shine.

12 Years a Slave is a surprisingly quiet movie.  The contrast between the beautiful lingering shots of the Louisiana landscape and the brutally graphic whippings the slaves, particularly Patsey, endure speaks volumes about how ordinary day to day living could go on alongside the physical and emotional torture of fellow human beings.

The performances by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o are subtle yet incredibly powerful.  There is a scene where Patsey begs Solomon to end her life that is heartbreaking.  Lupita Nyong’o deserved her Best Supporting Actress Oscar and Chiwetel Ejiofor deserved his Best Actor nomination.  As difficult as it is to watch some of their scenes in this film, it is impossible to ignore them onscreen.

Fresh off a win for Best Picture at the 2013 Academy Awards, 12 years a Slave is worth seeing now that it’s available on Blu-ray.  This is a masterful film and story that stays with you long after the screen goes dark.  While not easy to watch at times, this story of one man’s hope and perseverance during a horrible period of history is one that deserved to be told.  Much gratitude to Solomon Northup for writing his memoir and director Steve McQueen for bringing it to life so vividly.

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12 Years a Slave Blu-ray Review By Tony

**** (out of 4)

12 Years a Slave is based on the book by Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free middle class African American from upstate New York who was abducted during a trip to Washington in 1841 and sold into slavery under the name of Platt. It would be twelve years before he could rejoin his family.

Solomon’s first master Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) was relatively decent but weak. Platt’s talent as an engineer and fiddler was appreciated by Ford but resented by his cruel handler Tibeats (Paul Dano). A fight between Platt and Tibeats forced Ford to sell Platt to the more brutal master Epps (Michael Fassbender). Platt survived by maintaining what dignity he could, acting illiterate and doing what he was told. Fellow slave Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) was much worse off, enduring the “favours” of the master and jealous rages of his cruel wife (Sarah Paulson). A chance conversation with the itinerant carpenter Bass (Brad Pitt) who happened to be a Canadian abolitionist led to Solomon’s eventual freedom.

Contrasts between gentility and brutality of the period are clear on many levels. Flashbacks remind us of what Northup left behind. Slaves toil before a gorgeous backdrop of cypress and Spanish moss. Even the music from Hans Zimmer reflects the oppressive atmosphere, at one point blending deep bass and roaring brass with steamboat engines and at other times a light environmental score mixed with cicadas and other natural sounds, all punctuated by country fiddle tunes and slave hymns and work songs. Even the formal 19th century language belies the brutality of the period, exemplified by the sermons of Masters Ford and Epps and the ironically named slave dealer Freeman (Paul Giamatti) parading the naked merchandise like livestock before prospective buyers.

Even among excellent competition, the 2013 Best Picture Academy Award to 12 Years a Slave is well deserved, along with awards for John Ridley’s screenplay and brilliant supporting role by Nyong’o, and nominations for director Steve McQueen and other members of the outstanding cast. Like last year’s Best Picture nominee Lincoln, 12 Years a Slave will be a valuable contribution to understanding of American history for anyone mature enough to meet its challenges.

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Consensus: A heartbreaking look at slavery from director Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave is an incredibly powerful drama with striking cinematography and brilliant performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o.  **** (Out of 4)

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