Grab your popcorn and settle in for an emotional journey through history with the powerful film, 12 Years a Slave. This award-winning drama tells the story of Solomon Northup, a free Black man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the mid-1800s. With gripping performances and stunning visuals, this movie is a must-see for anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of the African American experience.
In 12 Years a Slave, we follow Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a Black man living in upstate New York in the 1840s. After a chance encounter with two men who offer him work, Solomon is drugged and kidnapped, waking up in chains in a Washington D.C. slave pen. There, he is sold into slavery and spends the next 12 years being shuffled between various owners in Louisiana.
12 Years a Slave is a heartbreaking and honest portrayal of the brutal realities of slavery in the United States. Through Solomon’s eyes, we see the cruelty, violence, and degradation inflicted upon Black people during this time, as well as the strength and resilience they exhibited in the face of unimaginable hardship.
This movie is important because it sheds light on a dark chapter in American history that is often glossed over or ignored. By telling the story of a free Black man who was enslaved, it shows that no one was safe from the horrors of slavery, no matter their background or social status. It’s a reminder of the lasting legacy of slavery in America and a call to action for us to continue working towards racial justice and equality.
The cast of 12 Years a Slave is nothing short of incredible. Chiwetel Ejiofor delivers a tour-de-force performance as Solomon Northup, capturing both his physical suffering and his emotional resilience. Lupita Nyong’o is heartbreaking as Patsey, a fellow slave who is subjected to brutal violence at the hands of their owner. Michael Fassbender is chilling as Epps, a sadistic plantation owner who takes pleasure in the suffering of his slaves. Other standout performances include Sarah Paulson as Epps’ cruel wife and Benedict Cumberbatch as a more benevolent plantation owner who nevertheless benefits from the system of slavery.
As mentioned, 12 Years a Slave follows the story of Solomon Northup, a Black man living as a free man in New York in 1841. He is approached by two men who offer him a job playing music in a traveling circus. After a night of heavy drinking, he wakes up in chains and discovers that he has been sold into slavery. He spends the next 12 years being bought and sold by various owners, enduring physical abuse, emotional trauma, and separation from his family. Along the way, he meets other slaves who have their own stories to tell and grapples with the realization that even if he is able to escape, he may never be able to return to his former life.
12 Years a Slave is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, whose memoir of the same name was published in 1853. The movie sticks fairly closely to the events recounted in the book, though some details have been changed or left out for the sake of narrative flow. We see Solomon’s life before he is kidnapped, his struggles to hold on to his identity and autonomy as a slave, and his eventual rescue and return to his family. Along the way, we witness the brutality of slavery in all its forms, including physical violence, sexual exploitation, and psychological torture.
12 Years a Slave is not an easy movie to watch, but it is a necessary one. Director Steve McQueen and writer John Ridley don’t shy away from the uglier aspects of slavery, but neither do they revel in them. Instead, they situate Solomon’s story within a larger historical context, making it clear that what happened to him was not an isolated incident, but a widespread and systemic injustice. The performances are uniformly excellent, with Ejiofor and Nyong’o standing out in particular, and the cinematography and score are both stunning. If there is any criticism to be made of the movie, it’s that some of the supporting characters feel underdeveloped and that the ending is a bit abrupt. Nevertheless, 12 Years a Slave is a powerful and important film that deserves to be seen.
Characters & Performance
As mentioned earlier, the cast of 12 Years a Slave is outstanding. However, it is Ejiofor’s performance as Solomon Northup that really anchors the movie. From the opening scenes, where he is shown living a comfortable life with his family, to his final moments of freedom, Ejiofor brings a quiet dignity and strength to the role. He captures the physical and emotional toll that slavery takes on Solomon, but also his resilience and determination to survive. Nyong’o, in her breakout role, is equally powerful as Patsey, a slave on the same plantation as Solomon who becomes the target of Epps’ sadism. She conveys both Patsey’s physical suffering and her unwavering spirit in the face of it. Fassbender, with his piercing blue eyes and intense energy, is terrifying as Epps, a man who is both pitiable and monstrous.
There are no special effects to speak of in 12 Years a Slave, but the movie makes effective use of practical effects to convey the horror of slavery. We see scars, bruises, and other wounds on the bodies of the slaves, as well as the tools and instruments used to inflict them. The movie also shows the physical toll that hard labor takes on the slaves, with shots of them toiling in the fields or breaking rocks in the hot sun. These scenes are effective in conveying how grueling and dehumanizing slavery was.
The soundtrack for 12 Years a Slave was composed by Hans Zimmer and includes several songs from the time period. The score is haunting and eerie, with discordant strings and haunting vocals evoking the sense of unease and dread that permeates the movie. The use of traditional spirituals, such as “Roll, Jordan, Roll” and “Run, Nigger, Run,” underscores the resilience and hope of the slaves, even in the darkest of times.
The cinematography in 12 Years a Slave is stunning, with lush, sweeping shots of the Louisiana landscapes and tight, claustrophobic close-ups of the slaves’ faces. The camera work effectively conveys the immensity of the natural world, as well as the intimacy of the relationships between the slaves. There are also several scenes in which the camera lingers on Solomon’s face as he internalizes the horror of his situation, which are incredibly powerful.
Steve McQueen’s direction is masterful in 12 Years a Slave. He creates a sense of unease and tension from the very beginning, with long, lingering shots of Solomon and his family. McQueen also makes effective use of silence, allowing the audience to fill in the gaps with their own imaginations. His decision to hold the camera on the violence and brutality inflicted upon the slaves is both unflinching and respectful, never exploiting or sensationalizing their suffering.
Popular Streaming Platforms
12 Years a Slave is available to stream on several popular platforms, including:
- Amazon Prime Video
- Google Play
To watch 12 Years a Slave on these streaming platforms, simply search for the movie and click play. Some services may require you to sign up for an account or purchase a subscription, but most offer a free trial period if you’re new to the service.
Rental and Purchase Options
If you don’t want to stream the movie, or if it’s not available on your preferred platform, you can also rent or purchase 12 Years a Slave from the following services:
- Google Play
- Microsoft Store
Prices vary depending on the service, but you can expect to pay around $3 to rent the movie or $10 to purchase it.
Pricing and Available Formats
If you choose to rent or purchase 12 Years a Slave, you will be able to watch it in a variety of formats, including standard definition, high definition, and 4K Ultra HD. Prices for these formats vary depending on the service and the device you are using to watch the movie.
Free Streaming Options
While 12 Years a Slave may not be available for free streaming on most platforms, there are a few options for watching the movie without paying:
- Pluto TV
These services are entirely free and supported by advertisements. Keep in mind that their libraries may not be as extensive as those of paid services, and the quality of the video may not be as high.
Torrenting and Piracy Warning
While torrenting 12 Years a Slave may seem like a convenient way to watch the movie for free, it is illegal and carries significant risks. By downloading copyrighted material without permission, you could be fined or even prosecuted. Additionally, torrenting sites are often riddled with malware and other security threats, putting your computer and personal information at risk. We strongly advise against torrenting any movies or television shows.
VPNs for Geo-Restrictions
If you are having trouble accessing 12 Years a Slave on a streaming platform because of geographic restrictions, a VPN may be able to help. A Virtual Private Network allows you to mask your IP address and appear to be accessing the website from a different country where the movie may be available. Some popular VPN services include:
- CyberGhost VPN
- Private Internet Access
Keep in mind that using a VPN to access content that is not available in your country may violate the terms of service for the streaming platform and could result in your account being suspended or terminated.
If you enjoyed 12 Years a Slave, there are several other movies and television shows that explore similar themes and historical periods:
- The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime Video)
- Roots (Hulu)
- The Color Purple (Netflix)
- Mudbound (Netflix)
- Django Unchained (Netflix)
All of these titles offer a glimpse into the experiences of Black Americans throughout history and underscore the resilience and strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.