Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - March, 2014


"12 Years a Slave" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen



Solomon Northrup is a free man living in upstate New York with his wife and children in 1842. A skilled carpenter and a musician, his fiddle playing attracts the attention of two men passing through town. Agreeing to their offer to play music for a two week road trip, he accompanies them to Washington DC. At dinner he is drugged, kidnapped, and wakes up to find himself in chains. He is then shipped to New Orleans, renamed as Platt, and sold into slavery.

With no papers to prove his identity or freedom, and no one that cares to help him, he is now property. Initially sold to a benevolent master who welcomes his intelligence and musical skills, he survives fine. When he butts heads with a white carpenter on the plantation, he is sold to someone else who has far less respect for him. Still trapped, we see just how much Solomon can tolerate to survive.


  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2013, Color, R, 2 Hr 14 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 5.1 DTS HD Master
  • Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Brad Pitt
  • Directed by: Steve McQueen
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Extreme
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes


It took a lot of work for me to sit through “12 Years a Slave”. The film is depressing and violent, and never lets up. It presents a picture of how truly horrible slavery was, and still is in parts of the world, that typically do not wind up on film. It is not a film I have a desire to ever watch again.

Beyond the difficulty I found to watch it, the film is very good. The story and characters are well done, and it moves along at a good pace as well. Just don’t expect to come out of it feeling good about the rest of your day.


The Blu-ray transfer is impeccable. From the distinct facial hairs I can make out on Michael Fassbender to the fine details of a cotton worm, everything looks very good. It isn’t a bright or flashy transfer, but a very solid one. Dark nighttime scenes, of which there are many, are wonderful but there are bits of shadow crush. Overall the image is superb.

The soundtrack is also very good. A lot of dialogue is done with a whisper but it is always clear and easy to hear. The subtle environmental sounds are captured perfectly and the score comes across clearly. Just like the image there is nothing flashy about the soundtrack, it just does a perfect job of putting you in the middle of the scene.


Two small featurettes, a long feature and a trailer.