12 Years a Slave (Blu-ray)

April 3, 2014 5 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

12 Years A Slave certainly had a good night at the Oscars this year, taking home 3 awards. It was nominated for even more. Critics seemed to adore the film as well. I can tell you that I enjoyed it more than I expected, but still don’t think its worthy of all the praise. The film tells a long, plodding tale that nearly drowns in repetition. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Solomon Northup, a free man sold into slavery for 12 years. He’s soon renamed as “Platt”, he’s beaten and whipped on a constant basis and has nobody to turn to in order to explain his situation and rid himself of this unfortunate new life. The film has a huge cast including; Michael Fassbender, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano and Brad Pitt to name a few. Although Pitt doesn’t show up until late in the picture and has what can’t be more than ten minutes of screen-time. I avoided plenty of Oscar Nominated films this past fall for various reasons, but this one just didn’t appeal to me in many ways. The central performance by Chiwetel is effective and there are many nice scenes, but the film seems to go on forever and there’s a sense of Deja Vu all too frequently. There’s about one scene too many of someone getting beaten in some way. I understand that the film wanted to make an impact, but it becomes overbearing at times and, as mentioned, repetitive.

The trailers highlighted a scene with Brad Pitt late in the picture, but it’s odd that he didn’t have a bigger role. Unless several of his scenes wound up on the cutting room floor then I don’t know what happened here. Paul Dano does a great job in his smaller role too. In a strange way, he reminds me of Ben Foster. Not so much by his features, but in that he never seems to give an ordinary performance. This is a compliment as he’s never boring. He takes what could’ve been a forgettable role and breathes a bit more life into it. Really at the end of the day, all I can say is that the performances are what I remember most about this film. I realize that I’m probably in the minority here, but the film just didn’t move me the way it seemed to with a lot of people. The 2 hour plus running time also began to exhaust me after a while. I think some serious edits would’ve strongly benefited this film. The fact-based story is one worth telling and Solomon’s journey to freedom is nothing short of inspiring, but the film left me rather unchanged.

Video: How’s it look?

Fox has given 12 Years a Slave the royal treatment and this new to Blu-ray film is certainly indicative of a major studio film. The 2.40:1 AVC HD transfer is nearly flawless. The film has several different “themes” and mainly features a very warm, earthy-toned palette. Detail is immaculate, showcasing the tiny beads of sweat, the little bugs in the air and everything in between.  Contrast and black levels are spot on and save for a few scenes that seemed a bit off, it’s an amazing-looking presentation.

Audio: How’s it sound?

To me, the highlight of the film is Hans Zimmer’s amazing score. While it wasn’t even nominated, I felt it should have been. The DTS HD Master Audio mix certainly delivers on more than one occasion. Surrounds are used with great effect, LFE’s got involved during a few scenes and vocals were strong, crisp and clean.  While the mix was a bit front heavy, there’s really nothing to complain about the audio – it delivers.

Supplements: What are the extras?

No doubt a more robust version is on the way due to its win for Best Picture, but what’s included isn’t half bad…

  • 12 Years a Slave: A Historical Portrait – This is the lion’s share of the supplements and shows actor Chiwetel Ejiofor reading the original novel. Some interviews with the cast and crew are also featured and running around 40 minutes is certainly worth a look.
  • The Team – We get some profiles of both the cast and crew.
  • The Score – Composer Hans Zimmer’s music is featured.
  • Theatrical Trailer

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