Twelve Years a Slave Movie Analysis

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Updated: Apr 02, 2020
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Twelve Years a Slave Movie Analysis essay

Twelve Years a Slave (2013)

Director: Steve McQueen

Title of work: Twelve Years a Slave

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Date of release: October 18, 2013

Good films are not only a source of positive emotions, but are also a critical analysis of events that have occurred. “Twelve Years a Slave directed by Steve McQueen” is a great movie based on a true story. This films context make the audience think during and after the movie is over. McQueen depicts slavery on three levels, with them being historical, moral, and personal, creating an insane experience and thought process for the viewer. This movie is non-fictional and is made 160 years after the memoir of a man, Solomon Northrup is published. Solomon Northrup, who was kidnapped and enslaved writes about how he was kidnapped in 1841 by two men from Washington, D.C. and sold into slavery. This is his heartbreaking story.

Brief Summary

In 1841, an African-American, Solomon Northup is living in Saratoga Springs, New York, with his wife and three children.

Solomon Northrup remained under Epps ownership for the next decade where he was used as a field slave for the plantation and an artisan slave. Epps would sometimes lease Solomon out to planters and processors. Solomon became an overseer of the other slaves and was in charge of them. Throughout the years, Solomon was unsuccessful in the several times he attempted to escape. In June of 1852, a man by the name of Samuel Bass from Canada visited Epp’s farm, where he arranged for Solomon’s letters to be delivered to his friends and family back home in New York. Solomon’s rescue was set in motion by Anne Northrup, with the help of Henry, Solomon’s friend and the grandson of the man who released Solomon’s father, Mintus, from slavery. There was a statute set to help rescue Solomon and citizens of New York that were sold into slavery that was gestured by Henry. Henry was made an agent of the State of New York to find Solomon and was sent to Louisiana with letters from a senator and a justice on the Supreme Court. Solomon was located and freed legally on January 4, 1853 and reunited with his family. Solomon Northrup’s rescue was publicized everywhere. Solomon brought charges against James Birch, the slave dealer who had gotten him incarcerated in 1841. Birch was not brought to justice, his case was dismissed.

Critical Analysis:

Personally, I liked this movie but there were some parts that were odd to  me. I watched  both movies, “Twelve Years a Slave” and “Birth of a Nation” my senior year of high school in a course I took called “Modern Global History through Film”. I preferred to  do a film  review  on this one rather than the other one because it was of more interest to me. I prefer drama movies to  action, horror, or rom-coms, so this was an enjoyable movie to me. I think film got hectic at some times or R rated. I read the book “Twelve Years a Slave”, too and thought that the movie was way more effective and impacting than the test was.

The quality of the movie was overall good with excellent and effects but at times was a bit too graphic and violent and cold. The actors and actresses were very good with the visuals being so realistic and the story was portrayed very well, yet something was still off to me. The story of of Solomon Northup is without a doubt is one that leaves you thinking after the movie is over, I just thought that the film was very unoriginal and stereotypical. I felt as if telling the ills and the wrongs of slavery wasn’t any new information being presented and that it was predictable and as if I had seen movies like this or read stories similar to it a number of times.

Overall,  I  believe  that  11Twelve  Years  a  Slave”  directed  by  Steve  McQueen  was  a  well organized and manufactured film. This movie was very easy for me to understand what was going on and was full of suspense even the second time around. With the fact that Soloman Northrop’s memoir was written in 1853 and this film being made over 150 years later, I thought it was executed pretty well.


This movie provides historical insight to what it was like to be a slave to white people in the United States during this time. Some states were free but the others were still slave owner states. Kidnapping an African American from a free state was not depicted as awful during this time although what slaves and Solomon Northrup went through is terrifying.

Overall, I thought that this was overall a great movie but it was very predictable, whereas it was obvious to me that Solomon would be brought to freedom and proceed to live a happy life once he reunited with his family after the entrapment and slavery he faced for 12 years. I could’ve predicted what was going to happen and my only critique on the film is that it was very stereotypical.

Steve McQueen did a great job by synopsizing the bad conditions of slavery nearing the end of the film. By introducing the Canadian worker Samuel Bass, he introduces an alternative view on life, where all people should be treated the same. In his conversation with Epps, he talks about opposing views on life. During their conversation, the main idea of movie is proposed: “What is true and right should be true and right for all”. This is the kind of film that makes you appreciate how much better the time you live in is versus what it used to be like.

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Twelve Years a Slave Movie Analysis. (2020, Apr 02). Retrieved from