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Sept 22, 2014
12 Years A Slave Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
31/1/20144/6/2014Icon FilmsSteve McQueen
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1MA15+Chiwetel Ejiofor

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Chiwetel Ejiofor is brilliant as Solomon Northup.

While I grew up with and still love action films in recent years my appreciation has skyrocketed for films that are based on real-life events. 12 Years A Slave is a true story with the film adhering to the book written by Solomon Northup very closely. It was with that knowledge that I was keen to check out the Blu-Ray when it arrived recently.

12 Years A Slave tells the incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty from a malevolent slave owner (Michael Fassbender), Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity in his quest to be reunited with his family.

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12 Years A Slave doesn't shy from brutality.
It's hard to criticize a film for the story when it is based on actual events, and a book written by the man who suffered through these events. It's such a powerful, emotional journey and shows a past that, by and large, has ended in the Western world. With a runtime of 134 minutes the film is just the right length and while there could have been a few trims to speed the film up, the slower pace helps to extend the suffering. This is certainly evident in a scene where Solomon is nearly hung, but lingers for minutes in the scene - in part to show the passing of an entire day in real life.

So with a solid storyline in place it comes down to the cast to deliver the goods, and boy does it do that. Not only does it have a wonderful cast, but every single actor or actress puts in a memorable turn as their character. Chiwetel Ejiofor has to carry the film of course as the lead in Solomon Northup and it is one of the most powerful performances put to screen and worthy of the Academy Award nomination. Of course Lupita Nyong'o won the Academy Award for her performance and it's brilliant despite the limited screentime. Other actors in the film include Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, and Alfre Woodard.

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The filmmakers have superbly recreated the era.
There's a reason this film won three Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actressand Best Adapted Scr eenplay) and was nominated for six others - it's a fantastic film that deserves to be watched at least once - and certainly many more times if the subject matter interests you.

This Blu-Ray disc provides a rather gorgeous 1080p transfer at the films original 2.40:1 aspect ratio and encoded with the AVC MPEG-4 codec. The film, and transfer, have a natural look with fine detail throughout. The film was shot on plantations around Louisiana and it gives the film a real world feel to it when outdoors. Darker scenes are handled fairly well although it was occasionally hard to make out finer details.

Also impressive is the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 which allows the film to shine with clear dialogue and effects and a wonderful score from Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, The Dark Knight, Inception) which will stick in your mind long after the film has ended. Sound prioritzation is spot on and the surround sound channels are used frequently.

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12 Years A Slave is filmed on real plantations in Louisiana.
There are no other audio tracks on this disc and only a single English Subtitles for The Hearing Impaired track which will get the job done if you have the need for subtitles.

Given the historical significance of the film, the phenomenal box office of $US187 million, and the critical acclaim it is somewhat disappointing not to see a release filled with more extras - a commentary track providing more detail about the era and book would have been welcome - but there is at least one decent extra which is exclusive to Blu-Ray.

A Historical Portrait (41:28/HD): Split into two parts and exclusive to Blu-Ray this extra sees extracts from the original book being read out, with connected scenes in the film shown and then additional footage from the set and background to the story also provided.

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Michael Fassbender is superb as Edwin Epps.
The Team (4:24/HD): Shorter then I hoped this featurette focuses on the team of filmmakers that made this film what it is - a wonderful period drama.

The Score (3:49/HD): Far too short to give a true indication of the impact of the score, this nevertheless highlights the wonderful score composed by Hans Zimmer.

12 Years A Slave is a brilliant film that chronicles an amazing story and provides one of the most detailed accounts of American slavery. Sure, it's not an easy film to watch at times, but it really is an essential viewing experience. A fantastic transfer and some bonus content makes this a disc well worth checking out.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Icon Films. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.