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 malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender), as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity.
Winner of 2014's Best Picture, 12 Years A Slave is a powerful, moving, and difficult watch. Slavery is an ugly stain on any society and it's important to remember its impact on the world and screenwriter John Ridley did a tremendous job adapting the true-life story by Soloman Northup with all the heart, sadness, pain, suffering, and ultimate salvation that inhabits the story. Director Steve McQueen brings the story to life with unflinching reality, pulling out heartbreaking and magnetic performances from his ensemble of actors
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Northup is stunning. Balancing the confusion, shock, horror, and perseverance of a man put in a hopeless situation, Ejiofor puts it all out there, making the audience suffer and hope along with him. He's our guide through the terrifying journey and you feel everything he does.
Ejiofor is flanked by an outstanding supporting cast, including Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, Paul Giamatti, Brad Pitt, and of course Lupita Nyong'o as Patsy, a slave to Fassbender's vicious Edwin Epps, who is the source of the most unsavory evil in the film.
The film is beautifully shot, capturing the atmosphere of the American South in the 1800's, and takes you right into the backbreaking world of living on a plantation as a slave. It's ironic that the film looks as good as it does when portraying something so ugly, but it's also one of the film's greatest strengths.
Each individual trapped into slavery is shown without delineating into stereotypes, as each person is affecting in varying ways, including Northup. It's an anxiety-ridden experience watching the film, but one that is well worth the journey, not only to show the horror's society is capable of, but the perseverance and strength that any one person is capable of to survive them. This isn't just a film about the ugliness of the world, but also the power of the human spirit when overcoming the most malevolent and unbearable odds. A triumphant film.
A Historical Portrait (41:21) - A lengthy and interesting documentary that explores the making of the film, featuring cast and crew interviews.
"The Team" featurette (7:43) - Highlights the crew of the film
"The Score" featurette (3:55) - Highlights composer Hans Zimmer's contribution to the music of the film.
Digital HD (ultraviolet) copy included.
12 Years A Slave is a powerful, moving, and often hard to watch film. Expertly made and with some of the finest performances of the year, it's worth checking out for the outstanding craftsmanship that went into bringing such a difficult story to life alone.
The disc is light on features, which is disappointing, but now that it has a Best Picture Oscar in its pocket, I'd expect to see a more loaded disc in the future. If you're just looking to catch the movie, though, this one will do just fine.