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12 Years a Slave (2013)

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In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.

Director:

Steve McQueen

Writers:

John Ridley (screenplay by), Solomon Northup (based on "Twelve Years a Slave" by)
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Popularity
708 ( 23)
Top Rated Movies #199 | Won 3 Oscars. Another 238 wins & 330 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Chiwetel Ejiofor ... Solomon Northup
Dwight Henry ... Uncle Abram
Dickie Gravois Dickie Gravois ... Overseer
Bryan Batt ... Judge Turner
Ashley Dyke ... Anna
Kelsey Scott ... Anne Northup
Quvenzhané Wallis ... Margaret Northup
Cameron Zeigler Cameron Zeigler ... Alonzo Northup
Tony Bentley ... Mr. Moon
Scoot McNairy ... Brown
Taran Killam ... Hamilton
Christopher Berry ... Burch
Bill Camp ... Radburn
Mister Mackey Jr. Mister Mackey Jr. ... Randall
Chris Chalk ... Clemens
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Storyline

Based on an incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom. 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 personified by a malevolent slave owner, 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. Written by Fox Searchlight

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The extraordinary true story of Solomon Northup


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence/cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official site | See more »

Country:

USA | UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

8 November 2013 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Twelve Years a Slave See more »

Filming Locations:

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$923,715, 20 October 2013, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$56,671,993

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$187,733,202
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS (Digital DTS Sound)| Dolby Digital | SDDS | Dolby Surround 7.1

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Along with Gravity (2013), this is the first film to tie for Best Picture at the Producer Guild Awards. See more »

Goofs

When "Platt" is explaining how to bring the logs down the river, the overseer scornfully asks him where he became an expert in engineering and "terraforming." This a word coined by science fiction author Jack Williamson in 1942, almost exactly 100 years after the scene takes place. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Overseer: Alright now, y'all fresh niggers. Y'all gonna be in the cuttin' gang.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in 73 Questions: 73 Questions with Victoria Beckham (2015) See more »

Soundtracks

Apache Blessing Song
Written and Performed by Chesley Wilson
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
A direct telling of the horrors, but not quite the complexities, of a man kidnapped into slavery
2 March 2014 | by secondtakeSee all my reviews

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Who can possibly argue against the power of this kind of movie, and the injustice that it waves as a welcome reminder? Superbly directed and acted (especially leading man Chiwetel Ejofor playing Solomon Northup), and set with high levels of realism in pre-Civil War America, there is little to separate what the filmmakers intended and what they achieved. A work of excellence.

It is not, however, quite the masterpiece it might have been. I don't mean the story or the level of competence here at all. I mean the way the story is told, the choice to simply tell it like it was.

That means that the presentation is quite linear (excepting a few gratuitous flashbacks that seem like a last minute editing decision). And uncomplicated. This is the biggest surprise. I mean, the basics might seem enough—a free black man in Saratoga goes to Washington and is kidnapped and made a slave, and he remains a slave until his recovery 12 years later. But that is actually the entire movie.

Oh, I know, the details are missing in that sentence. But it is these details where the movie succeeds too well. We are shown the horrors of slavery and made to experience them. It isn't that this is ignoble or unimportant. On the contrary, this is an "important" film and should be seen. But in some weirdly surreal way, we already know everything that happens in these details.

Do we need to see a woman, naked and tied to a post, whipped and whipped and whipped, with screaming in our ears? Many will say yes. We need to feel that horror even a little bit (through a movie) to understand how utterly unbelievably horrible slavery was. I would just argue back that I don't really want to be tortured directly to confirm what I already fully agree with. It's just a choice you want to make as a moviegoer. It's similar to watching a kidnapping movie—do you want to experience the inner and outer torments of the kidnapped, or see some larger view of a kidnapping situation and the complexities of that kind of plot?

For me, then the movie was excellent at being literal, but that's not enough. For example, there is absolutely no hint at what the family did when Solomon didn't return home after his trip to Washington. Did they search? Worry? How? Who helped, who ignored them? Etc. That's just one of many complexities the movie avoids for the sake of a direct experience of the protagonist.

I hope that gives a sense of where this unpleasant, terrific movie leaves you, and whether to watch it.


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