12 Years A Slave Blu-ray Review

The issue of slavery is not something that any American, of any race, likes to address.  It’s an obvious blemish on our proud history and when it comes to telling stories about slavery, there aren’t many happy endings.  That’s probably why there aren’t many movies about the subject, since audiences typically don’t like to watch someone suffer for two hours without some sort of retribution or justice being served for those that caused the suffering.  In the case of 12 YEARS A SLAVE, the villains in the film never get their due and although our hero is reunited with his family, it feels like a small consolation given the horrors he experienced for 12 years.  But despite that, 12 YEARS A SLAVE is an important movie and an extremely well executed film about a subject that’s uncomfortable for everyone.

12 Years A Slave

Chiwetel Ejiofor is Solomon Northup, an educated, free man living in northern New York State.  After taking a job playing the violin for two men, Solomon awakes the next day to find himself shackled to the floor of a jail cell.  Unable to prove his free status, Solomon is sold into slavery in the Deep South.  Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) is his first owner and is a kind (“kind” is a relative term at this stage in his life) owner, who treats Solomon well.  But Solomon has a run-in with Tibeats (Paul Dano) and Ford is forced to sell Solomon to the very cruel Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), who makes Solomon’s life hell for the remainder of his days in the South.

12 Years A Slave

Throughout Solomon’s time as a slave, he encounters all of the horrors we’ve come to expect from the days of slavery.  He comes across a hanging, he sees families torn apart as they’re sold to different owners, he witnesses and takes beatings and experiences several betrayals.  Director Steve McQueen handles these experiences well as the audience begins to feel the despair that Solomon feels.  And the talent of Ejiofor keeps our hope alive that someday Solomon will be able to break free from his captors and return to his family.  As the years go by, that becomes harder and harder.  But that hope is what keeps Solomon going and the audience engaged.

12 Years A Slave

Although Solomon meets several people along the way, the most important person is Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o), a fellow slave owned by Epps.  Epps has a fascination with Patsey, which causes him to be unusually cruel to her and the dynamic between Epps, Epps’ wife, Patsey and Solomon is at the crux of the most difficult scenes to sit through.  The scenes were necessary in order to truly convey the horrors Solomon was facing, but at times it felt like they were a bit gratuitous in length.  In some regards, any uncomfortable scene is too long, but there’s only so much whipping and berating the audience needs to endure to get the point of the situation.

Michael Fassbender in 12 Years A Slave

Technically speaking, 12 YEARS A SLAVE is virtually flawless.  The film is executed to perfection, with every aspect of the film hitting on all cylinders.  I would compare the film to SCHINDLER’S LIST in that it’s an incredible, important film about a depressing time in history, but it’s not necessarily something you’ll want to watch again.  I recommend everyone viewing it at least once, but I’m not sure many fans are going to want to add this to their collection.


Video: 12 YEARS A SLAVE looks fantastic on Blu-ray, highlighting some of the rich cinematography on display.

Audio: The audio was just as impressive.

Given the fact it just won the Academy Award for Best Picture, I can only assume we’ll be getting a special edition of 12 YEARS A SLAVE in the near future.  This release is light on features, especially given the important subject matter.

12 Years a Slave: A Historical Portrait (41:20):  This is more a series of featurettes that cover almost every aspect of the film.  Most of the cast and crew show up to discuss the film as well as Northrup’s book.

The Team (7:40): This is another behind the scenes featurette looking at the cast and crew of the film.



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