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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

12 Years a Slave [Blu-ray]


(Steve McQueen, 2013)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: New Regency Pictures

Video: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:14:10.083

Disc Size: 47,203,374,955 bytes

Feature Size: 36,409,024,512 bytes

Video Bitrate: 28.99 Mbps

Chapters: 36

Case: Standard Blu-ray case inside cardboard slipcase

Release date: March 4th, 2014



Aspect ratio: 2.4:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 3880 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3880 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio French 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps



English (SDH), Spanish, none



12 Years a Slave: Historical Portrait (2-part 41:21)

• The Team (7:43)

• The Score (3:55)

• Trailer (2:23)





Description: Chiwetel Ejiofor stars in the true story of Solomon Northup, a free man in 1800s New York State, who was kidnapped and forced into slavery on a plantation near New Orleans, and his subsequent fight for freedom with the help of a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt). Steve McQueen (Hunger) directed from a script he co-wrote with John Ridley, based in part on Northup's memoir. Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, and Paul Giamatti co-star.



The Film:

The film 12 Years a Slave, British director Steve McQueen’s antebellum Southern drama, sets a new standard in realistically depicting American slavery. With slavery at the heart of the paradox – the United States’ existence was founded on the principle of liberty – a mainstream film that depicts that bleak part of history is exceptional.

For that reason alone, 12 Years A Slave is probably the film event of the year, but worthiness in itself can be deadly – even if it does win Academy Awards. Fortunately, 12 Years a Slave is also exceptional as a film. Far from the push-button catharsis offered by most Hollywood redemption tales, the work is sober and deliberate, a mix of visceral intensity and artful design.

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail located HERE

Based on the 19th-century memoir of Solomon Northup (adapted here by screenwriter John Ridley), 12 Years a Slave follows the tribulations of an educated carpenter, musician and family man from New York state who, in 1841, was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the south – a shockingly common phenomenon. Stripped of his past, his identity and even (in the eyes of the law) his humanity, the renamed "Platt" becomes the property of plantation owner Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), whose comparatively benign and sympathetic demeanour belies his slaver status. But after incurring the ire of sadistic farmhand Tibeats (Paul Dano), "Platt" is sold down the river to Epps (Michael Fassbender), a broiling cauldron of psychotic rage whose desire for slave girl Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o) appears to be pushing him ever further into an abyss of uncontrollable cruelty.

Despite McQueen's repeated assertion that he has no distinct "style" (the functional marriage of form and content is everything), critics have identified recurring tropes in his feature films, such as the audaciously lengthy single takes of Hunger (the priest/prisoner interview) and Shame (Sissy's song), which appear talismanic. At a deeper level, there's a consistent interest in the punishment of the flesh that dates back to his early moving-picture projects (the wrestling/teasing of Bear) and underwrites each of his three feature films, in which bodies are variously starved, entangled and beaten in obliterating fashion. The stench of hanging and flogging that drifts in the steamy Louisiana air of 12 Years a Slave makes watching occasionally unbearable – I looked away more than once; not a criticism (we are worlds away from the exploitational tones of Django Unchained), more an acknowledgement of the film's awful raw power. One sequence in which Northup is strung up like some strange fruit from a tree while life on the plantation ambles on around him achieves a surreal intensity that recalls the haunting poetry of Terrence Malick's existential war movie The Thin Red Line.

Excerpt from Mark Kermode at The Guardian located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

12 Years a Slave looks absolutely brilliant on Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox.  The image quality is crisp and the 1080P showcases Sean Bobbitt's beautiful cinematography to impressive heights. I should also credit the amazing art direction which defines the surroundings and atmosphere to such a professional standard.  This is dual-layered with a high bitrate. Colors seem vibrant (especially the outdoor scenes of lush landscapes) but true with advancing beyond the boundaries of realism. Skin tones are true and contrast exhibits healthy, rich black levels. Details is crisp in the few close-ups and there isn't a hint of noise. By any standards this is 1080P image is stunning in its clarity and scope. This Blu-ray looks about as good as I have seen in a long while - exporting fabulously impressive visuals.


















Audio :

The audio doesn't take a backseat to the stupendous video. We get a tight DTS-HD Master 5.1 at very healthy 3880 kbps. Separations are punchy and bass response intimidating with its power potential - though rarely is it released. Hans Zimmer (The Thin Red Line, Broadcast News, Angels and Demons etc.) is the go-to guy and his score is effective rising and falling with the screen moods. The closing harmonica theme music seems absolutely perfect and sounds crisp enough without range or depth. My Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

Supplements include the 40-minute, 2-part, documentary entitled 12 Years a Slave: Historical Portrait. It includes Chiwetel Ejiofor reading of Solomon Northup's 1841 autobiography of which the film is based. It details how the film came together with discussing with director Steve McQueen. It is excellent. We also get 7-minutes of "The Team" highlighting creative partners in the film. We also get the, brief, "The Score" where Hans Zimmer talks of his composition of the film's score. There is also a theatrical trailer.



I don't know why - but I went into this with modest expectations. This is despite being overwhelmed by Steve McQueen's Hunger and thoroughly enjoying Chiwetel Ejiofor in David Mamet's Red Belt.  It didn't take long for 12 Years a Slave to win me over. A brilliant and impacting film experience. This is one of the premium Blu-rays so far this year. As well as being flawless - it produces a mesmerizing presentation both visually and aurally in addition to having important extras. Our strongest recommendation! 

Gary Tooze

February 26th, 2013



About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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