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American Film about Slavery Review

Updated on May 6, 2016

Blu Ray DVD

General Information

Director: Steve McQueen
Writers: John Ridley (screenplay), Solomon Northup (based on "Twelve Years a Slave" by)
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor ... Solomon Northup
Dwight Henry ... Uncle Abram
Dickie Gravois ... Overseer
Michael Fassbender ... Edwin Epps
Bryan Batt ... Judge Turner
Ashley Dyke ... Anna
Kelsey Scott ... Anne Northup
Quvenzhané Wallis ... Margaret Northup
Cameron Zeigler ... Alonzo Northup
Tony Bentley ... Mr. Moon
Scoot McNairy ... Brown
Taran Killam ... Hamilton
Christopher Berry ... Burch
Bill Camp ... Radburn
Genres: Biography | Drama | History
Country: USA | UK
Language: English
Release Date: 12 December 2013
Runtime: 134 min


The film is 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 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 will forever change his life.

Official Trailer

About the Film

It seems that as long as the sun rises in the morning and we bake Easter cakes on Easter, the Americans will make films about slavery. But as you got used to the sunrise and Easter cakes, the same you get used to these films. You do not open anything new for you, anything special, any new thought or feeling. That’s what I can say about 12 Years a Slave. However, I don’t want to say that it’s a bad film, no. There is a lot to dwell upon indeed.


If you download the full soundtrack to this film, the good half of the album you will enjoy the delicate silence with calm, lonely sound of violin and some monotonous grinding sound on the background. It can be compared with a blunt hacksaw disturbing your nerve endings that answer for sadness and melancholy. So, during the whole film, the music is evident only 2 or 3 times. In the rest of the movie, it is hardly noticed if it is present at all. On the one hand, music and sound is even extra according to the director’s plan, it even disturbs you from reflection and empathy to the main hero. On the other hand, not every director can make the audience silently watch the film and stare at the crying sufferer in the stillness while catching his wave of speechless emotions. The director of this film managed to do it, but to some extent. Some episodes evidently lack harrowing chords that would only benefit the film. But I don’t want to blame the composer, he just completed his order. And the contractor is paid when the customer is satisfied. Perhaps, he just worked for money. But the music receives only 4/10 from me.


The main hero lives in the North, plays the violin, and parents the children. But then he is made drunk by coward Whites who sell him to slavery where he spends good 12 years. The whole film is devoted to the story how he is trying to survive while suffering from cruel and unjust reality. But this all is the plot, not the idea. The idea of the film, as of any other one, it to make a good movie, the one that would be attractive to the cinema critics and thus receive a lot of awards. Everything is done according to the Oscar-winning demand. The film was released by the end of the year. The film is about slavery when the president is of Black origin himself.. they might feel guilty still. As for me, it was made with an evident effort and asking for prizes/ nominations/ awards. Therefore, I put also 4 for the idea.


What brightness can be here when there are only colors in the film that do not refer to the image itself? Speaking about the technical characteristics, the decorations are made well and in high quality. But I doubt whether it is difficult or not to recreate the plantation of cotton and build several huts with carts. In fact, nothing special was demanded. I am glad that there were no jeeps and satellite antenna on the background, and no I-phones in the pockets of slave-owners. I can’t but mention that there were several really good and protracted enough takes with round movements of the camera in the hands of experienced cameramen. But in general, all film crew did a good job without any heroism or innovations. And it even would be odd here. Thus, the points given to brightness of the film are not that high: I would put it 8 out of 10.

The Work of Creators

Now, our attention is drawn to the director, whose name is Steve McQueen and who is not of American, but of British origin. He is famous for his previous works like Shame and Hunger, which however did not receive the desired award though people like them. And his decision to shoot 12 Years a Slave seems to show his preference of receiving an Oscar to people’s love. By the way, in this film, as in the other films of McQueen, we can see his main star, Michael Fassbender. Fassbender managed to show a very charismatic slaver with the necessary brutality, low morality, and pride. He was a true tyrant and fiend. Michael acts so brightly and heartily that his not-so-famous colleague Chiwetel, who acts as the main hero, is nearly lost on his background. The actor shows sufferings of his character during the whole film. But to the middle of the film, you start noticing that all his mimic reminds grimacing. Well, suffering face expression is very good, but whatever happens, whoever talks to him, his expression seems not to alter a lot. In general, the actor team is not bad. For somebody, like Chiwetel, the film was a real breakthrough in his career. So, in a nutshell, I would put them 8 out of 10.


As for the budget of the film, everything is not that good as desired. The film has not managed to reach even half a million dollars. Even with the low budget, this amount is not very big. It often happens so with the ‘festival’ projects, which are shot for a particular group of people, namely the critics. Before the release of the premiere, the film participates in numerous festivals, gathering positive responses. Sometimes, you have to choose between two ways: gather responses or get money. But this is a personal choice of everyone. The art has the right to be invaluable. So, the mark will be 7.

Interesting Facts

  • In order to better portray an alcoholic, Michael Fassbender had his makeup artist paint his mustache with alcohol so that the other actors would react naturally to the smell, as they would to a man who had been drinking heavily.
  • Director Steve McQueen had been toying with the idea of writing a script about slavery, featuring a black man who had been born free and was later forced into slavery, but McQueen was struggling with the script until his wife found Solomon Northup's biography and gave it to him. Shocked that he had never heard of Northup before, he decided to adapt the book instead.
  • Before filming their more brutal scenes together, Lupita Nyong'o and Michael Fassbender performed a ritual of "making nice." According to Nyong'o, "We wouldn't say anything to each other, just a look in the eye and a grasping of hands. Our characters are in such opposition, but we as actors needed each other in order to be able to go the distance."
  • Steve McQueen's daughter told him to hire Sarah Paulson, after viewing her audition tape, because she found her scary.

Price and Availability

If you like purchasing DVDs online, you will be surprisingly amaxed by the price on it is £ 5.89 there. Besdies, there is an offer on, where you can buy it for £ 14.99.

12 Years a Slave BluRay


The film 12 Years a Slave is a worth, quality, and clever work. This is history, thus it is valuable and important. However, there have already been numerous movies with similar story. So, if you don’t mind watching another American film about slavery, it will be a good choice for you.

If you want to survive, do and say as little as possible. Tell no one who you really are and tell no one that you can read and write. Unless you want to be a dead nigger.

Thank you for reading my review! You can also find it on Ciao under my nickname AliceBond.


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