When and how did I watch this?
November 30th and December 1st, 2015, on Amazon Instant Video.
Had I seen this film already?
What did I know about the movie before watching it?
I found out it’s based on a true story about a slave, once a free man, who endured years of hardship in pre-Civil War America. I also read it had an ensemble cast, which I would later find amusing because it featured actors in other recent films on the IMDb Top 250 I really didn’t like at all.
What do I know about it now?
I tried to enjoy this movie — I really did — but it fell very flat to me. I expected something more compelling or dramatic, but often it was slow, staggering from scene to scene with little continuity. Sure, there were breathtaking and blood-boiling moments. However, there are many other films like this (Glory and Amistad come to mind immediately), and this one just kinda blended into the bunch. Although not slavery-driven, the racially-fueled The Help (2011) bears semblance, attempting to rattle the viewer and help them remember “RACISM IS BAD”. I suppose one cannot overstate the horror of American slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries, but I could’ve gone without watching a boring movie that reminded me of it.
What are some themes in the film?
Slavery, torture, rape, white privilege in the 19th century/racism
Did this affect me personally?
One scene in particular really stuck (spoiler): Northup is spared from being hung, but not cut down from the noose, where he hangs for what appears to be several hours until his master returns. No one spares him (one daring slave provides him with water), but everyone appears reluctant, avoiding a similar fate for rescuing him. Powerful stuff.
Why is this ranked #178?
It’s politically correct and addresses a subject most people are quite familiar with. The movie won the Oscar for Best Picture, I believe. Ironically, a similar film ranked higher on this list, Django Unchained, was snubbed the year prior.
Did my wife watch/like it?
She hated it.
Would I watch it again?
Perhaps after watching Django, it’s worth revisiting, but it’s not something I’d flip on just for kicks.
Would I recommend it to a friend?
Sure. I’m not a fan, but most critics thought it was incredible. Who would you listen to?
Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?
Probably. I personally believe Glory is far better, yet it is excluded from the list. While it doesn’t address slavery head-on like 12 Years does, it addresses the issue with color and continuity that I felt this movie lacked. In other words, I think this theme deserves a lot, but the film is somewhat replaceable.