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12 Years a Slave

Blu Ray

  • Score
    from 2 reviewers
    Review Date:
  • 12 Years a Slave: emotionally powerful, superbly acted, with some pacing issues. Worth seeing.

    12 Years a Slave Blu-ray Front Cover

    Disc Release Date:

  • Video
  • '12 Years a Slave' Blu-ray dazzles with its beauty and painfully detailed visuals despite some shadow detail issues, capturing the ironic juxtaposition of cruel history amidst stunning surroundings.

  • Audio
  • 12 Years a Slave's DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix offers rich, immersive scenes with crisp dialogue, atmospheric sounds, and Zimmer's score, enhancing the film's emotional depth.

  • Extra
  • A comprehensive exploration of '12 Years a Slave,' with featurettes, interviews, behind-the-scenes, and Hans Zimmer's score insights, alongside trailers for the film and other MGM projects.

  • Movie
  • The discourse critiques America's historical amnesia and '12 Years a Slave's' portrayal of slavery's brutality and the resilience of the human spirit, while noting mixed reviews on its narrative approach.

    Video: 75

    The Blu-ray presentation of "12 Years a Slave," courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, showcases an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in the cinematic aspect ratio of 2.40:1 that brings the lush yet painful reality of the film to life with stunning clarity. Director Steve McQueen, in collaboration with cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, skillfully captures the harrowing contrast between the breathtaking beauty of the Louisiana landscapes and the brutal injustices of slavery depicted in the film. Scenes are meticulously framed to highlight sunlight filtering through foliage, casting mesmerizing patterns and imbuing the plantation settings with a syrupy golden hue that underscores the perverse tranquility of the slave owners' lives against the backdrop of relentless toil. The film's visual narrative is further enhanced by the exceptional detail captured on 35mm film using Arricam cameras, allowing textures like the ragged threads of slaves' garments and the disturbing realism of scars to emerge with palpable intensity.

    Despite its numerous visual strengths, the Blu-ray transfer is not without its shortcomings, most notably in low-light scenes where shadow detail becomes muddled, making it difficult for viewers to discern the action. While the film effectively utilizes grain to maintain its cinematic authenticity, especially in dimly lit sequences, this sometimes compromises black levels and visibility. Nevertheless, these instances are relatively rare, with most scenes displaying a remarkable balance of contrast and color vibrancy. Daytime scenes, in particular, explode with color, accentuating the natural beauty of the locations and the detailed period costumes.

    Overall, "12 Years a Slave" on Blu-ray offers a profoundly immersive and visually arresting viewing experience. The meticulous attention to contrast, skin tones, and detail—coupled with the sparing and judicious use of grain—serves not only to enhance the aesthetic beauty of the film but also to intensify its emotional impact. While certain darker scenes might challenge viewer perception due to weaker black levels, these moments do little to detract from what is an excellently crafted high-definition video presentation.

    Audio: 75

    The audio experience presented by the Blu Ray edition of "12 Years a Slave" through its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix serves as a veritable showcase for the often harrowing and immersive world the film seeks to recreate. This mix not only enriches each scene with a palpable sense of time and place – be it through the ambient sounds of nature on a Southern plantation or the unsettling clank of chains that marks Solomon Northup's descent into slavery – but also maintains a meticulous balance that allows for a crisp, clear dialogue delivery. The rear channels are judiciously used to enhance the sense of immersion, drawing viewers deep into the film's setting with a subtlety that never feels overwhelming or gratuitous.

    Notably, the score by Hans Zimmer, with its string-heavy arrangements, is masterfully integrated into the surround channels, complementing rather than competing with the film's diegetic sound. The fidelity across the board is remarkable, ensuring that every auditory element, from the most jarring clang to the softest whisper, is rendered with clarity and precision. This effect is further augmented by the thoughtful use of directional audio cues and ambient sounds, which, whether portraying the bustling streets before Solomon's capture or the eerie quietude of a nighttime scene, contribute significantly to the film’s atmospheric tension.

    In addition to the primary English track, this Blu Ray features 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks in Spanish and French, expanding accessibility, along with an English Descriptive Audio track for the visually impaired. The inclusion of subtitles in English SDH and Spanish ensures that "12 Years a Slave" can be experienced by a wider audience in its full emotional and technical complexity. This careful attention to detail in the audio presentation greatly enhances the overall viewing experience, making it not just a feast for the eyes but also a profound journey for the ears.

    Extra: 50

    The Blu Ray extras for "12 Years a Slave" offer a comprehensive and enriching experience that adds considerable depth to the main feature. "A Historical Portrait" is particularly noteworthy, presenting an enlightening series of featurettes that combine Chiwetel Ejiofor's poignant readings from Solomon Northup's original book with valuable interviews from the cast and crew, revealing the profound insights and intentions behind the film's creation. Complementing this are "The Team" and "The Score," which respectively provide an intriguing glimpse into the collaborative effort of the film’s production and the creation of its emotive soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, a testament to the film’s artistic achievements. The inclusion of the theatrical trailer and a sneak peek section, featuring additional trailers, rounds out the Blu Ray's bonus content, making it a must-see for fans and cinephiles interested in the filmmaking process and the historical context of this powerful story.

    Extras included in this disc:

    • A Historical Portrait: Chiwetel Ejiofor reads from Northup's book, coupled with cast and crew interviews.
    • The Team: Behind-the-scenes look at the cast and crew.
    • The Score: Examination of Hans Zimmer's music for the film.
    • Theatrical Trailer: The original theatrical trailer.
    • Sneak Peak: A collection of various trailers including for MGM's 90th Anniversary, Homeland: Season 2, 'The Bridge: Season 1', and Baggage Claim.

    Movie: 75

    The Blu-ray presentation of "12 Years a Slave" offers a profound cinematic experience that is as harrowing as it is ultimately uplifting, brilliantly encapsulating the resilience of the human spirit in the face of insurmountable odds. Steve McQueen's direction, coupled with Chiwetel Ejiofor's compelling portrayal of Solomon Northup, ensures that this adaptation of Northup's own mid-19th-century narrative retains all the power of its source material—a literary phenomenon once second only to "Uncle Tom's Cabin." The film eschews simplistic storytelling for a deeply immersive recount of Northup's horrifying transition from a free man to a slave, sold into a system that threatens to erase his identity and humanity.

    Despite its critical acclaim and Academy Award for Best Picture, some audiences have found the film's beginning somewhat lacking in emotional engagement due to sparse character interactions that might have deepened viewers' connection to Northup. However, the movie gains undeniable momentum as it progresses, leading to a second half that is overwhelmingly powerful. Scenes depicting the brutal realities of slavery, such as the near-lynching of Northup or the heart-wrenching punishment of Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o), are executed with a raw intensity that dares viewers to confront these atrocities head-on. McQueen's choice to linger on these moments, forcing an almost unbearable level of discomfort, serves to underline the inhumanity inherent within the institution of slavery.

    Noteworthy is the film’s technical craft, particularly in capturing the dichotomy between the idyllic landscapes of the American South and the grotesque violation of human rights unfolding within its confines. While "12 Years a Slave" may come across as screed-like to some, specifically in its portrayal of "Bible-thumping" Southerners, these moments highlight historical accuracies often glossed over in remembrance. Even if elements such as the cartoonishly villainous portrayal of Tibeats (Paul Dano) may border on exaggeration, they contribute to a visceral portrayal of slavery’s brutal reality. The narrative's handling of time, the descent into despair juxtaposed with sparks of resilience, and the exceptional performances across the board render this film an invaluable resource for those seeking to understand the depth and enduring impact of America's history of slavery.

    Total: 72

    The Blu-ray presentation of "12 Years a Slave" stands as a stark and poignant exploration of one of the darkest chapters in human history. Merging the emotionally gripping narrative with remarkably compelling performances, particularly from Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender, this edition encapsulates the essence of despair, endurance, and the indomitable human spirit against the backdrop of slavery. Despite its slow start, which may not engage all viewers immediately, the film ascends into a powerful testament to resilience and dignity as it progresses. With its juxtaposition of harrowing content and visually stunning production design, "12 Years a Slave" offers an immersive experience that is both distressing and enlightening. The Blu-ray edition further enhances this with superb technical merits, including crisp visuals and precise audio quality, alongside valuable supplemental materials that enrich the viewing experience.

    While opinions on its Best Picture accolade might diverge, there's a consensus on the film's significance and the exceptional quality of its central performances. Ejiofor's portrayal, in particular, is lauded for infusing the narrative with a depth of humanity that is both haunting and inspirational. The Blu-ray presentation adeptly captures these nuances, making it a compelling addition to any collection.

    In conclusion, "12 Years a Slave" on Blu-ray is highly recommended for those seeking not only a film of critical acclaim but also a profoundly moving cinematic journey. Its blend of visual splendor with an emotionally charged storyline makes for an unforgettable viewing experience. Even with its initial pacing challenges, the film's second half delivers a resonant and impactful exploration of endurance against oppression. This Blu-ray edition not only preserves but amplifies the film's powerful message through exceptional quality and thoughtful extras.