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Films >> 12 Years a Slave (2013) >>

1) Stark, visceral and unrelenting, 12 Years a Slave is not just a great film but a necessary one. (Paul MacInnes)

2) 12 Years a Slave is a scarifying, unblinking portrayal of life as it was for tens of thousands of people less than 200 years ago. It pulls no punches. But neither does it lecture. McQueen chooses to let all the actions and inactions convey their own message. As the film ends, there is no barnstorming speech, promise of change or bloody revenge fantasy, just a lingering shot of a man sobbing inconsolably. (Paul MacInnes)

3) There has never been a movie like 12 Years a Slave, which is Hollywood's shame. Miss it, and that mistake is yours. (Steve Persall)

4) 12 Years a Slave has some of the awkwardness and inauthenticity of a foreign-made film about the United States. The dialogue of the Washington, DC, slave traders sounds as if it were written for Lord of the Rings. White plantation workers speak in standard redneck clichés. And yet the ways in which this film is true are much more important than the ways it's false. (Mike LaSalle)

5) 12 Years a Slave is to the “peculiar institution” what Schindler’s List was to the Holocaust: a work that, finally, asks a mainstream audience to confront the worst of what humanity can do to itself. If there’s no Oskar Schindler here, that’s partly the point. (Ty Burr)

6) Well-meaning films like “Lincoln” and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler’’ merely scratch the surface compared to the deep and painful truths laid bare by “12 Years a Slave.” It’s about time, Scarlett O’Hara. (Lou Lumenick)

7) It’s the unhappiest happy ending I’ve ever seen, a moment that makes you weep not just for this one man who found his way back to freedom, but for all those men and women who never knew it in the first place. (Dana Stevens)

8) These were my companions and fellow-slaves, with whom I was accustomed to be driven to the field, and with whom it has been my lot to dwell for ten years in the log cabins of Edwin Epps. They, if living, are yet toiling on the banks of Bayou Boeuf, never destined to breathe, as I do now, the blessed air of liberty, nor to shake off the shackles that enthrall them, until they shall lie down forever in the dust. (Solomon Northup 190)

9) The past we choose to remember defines in large measure our national character, transmits the values and self-images we hold dear, and preserves the events, glorious and shameful, extraordinary and mundane, that constitute our legacy from the past and inspire our hopes for the future. (Gary B. Nash, et al. ix)

10) It was grueling to find the inner workings of a human being in the character of Epps. I wanted to create someone that was, at times, sympathetic to the audience—despite the cruelty he displays. I wanted the audience to catch glimpses of themselves in Epps, even for a millisecond, and not have the luxury of keeping themselves at an arm’s distance from him. He’s a terrible slave-owner, but also a human being filled with complexity. (Michael Fassbender, qtd. in Stern)

11) There's something Shakespearean about it. From the case of mistaken identity (though willfully mistaken) to the formal, old-fashioned language to the tragic tone in which it is all swaddled, this is Shakespeare by way of the Deep South. (Mike Scott)