12 Years a Slave Blu-ray Review

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After "Hunger" and "Shame", he should have just called this "Endurance"

by Casimir Harlow May 13, 2014 at 7:17 AM

  • Movies review


    12 Years a Slave Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £19.99

    12 Years a Slave Blu-ray Review

    You should see 12 Years a Slave. It might even be the case that you have to see it. But I’m still not quite sure whether you need to see it.

    The trouble is that there’s nothing really in McQueen’s latest critically acclaimed feature which we didn’t already know. Some might even argue that it often borders on being little more than Oscar-driven, high-class torture-porn, revelling in the relentless, 12-year-long pain endured by one man. It’s dangerous when a movie so clinically eschews all forms of entertainment value – as McQueen’s prior two films have similarly done – and it may well leave many moviegoers with a very bitter taste in their mouths. It’s no wonder that some Oscar voters reputedly voted for it without ever having seen it.
    Not all films need to be pleasant experiences – most of the best are tense, tough pieces of art which get their claws right under your skin and don’t let go. But 12 Years a Slave doesn’t really attempt to get under your skin, it behaves instead as if it has already earned a right to be there, spending the duration peeling away at you until you’re flayed to the bone. It’s a shame, in a way, because even Tarantino’s Django Unchained managed to masterfully traverse the same territory – albeit in fictionalised form – and yet did so whilst remaining utterly entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable throughout.

    Yes, yet again McQueen has done it. Produced a masterful film about a worthy subject, with powerhouse performances – and yet again featuring a standout performance Fassbender – and both shot and directed with consummate skill and undeniable talent. And also utterly impossible to enjoy. It’s so painfully, unflinchingly unpleasant that you simply have to endure. If you can, the reward is being able to say that you’ve seen one of the must-see films of the year.

    12 Years a Slave Blu-ray Picture Quality

    12 Years a Slave 12 Years a Slave Blu-ray Picture Quality
    12 Years a Slave receives a thoroughly impressive 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. Irrespective of the brutality of the subject-matter and substance, the scenery is utterly exquisite, and McQueen delivers a frequently stunning-looking feature.

    Despite the horrific scenes that it depicts, 12 Years a Slave, at all times, looks stunning.

    Detail is unforgiving, providing a rich and palpable texture to the background, the scenery and the period clothing, but also revelling in the wounds and scars accrued through the years, leaving them difficult to ignore and impossible to forget. All this with no signs of any digital defects, no unruly edge enhancement, no excessive DNR application, no banding, blocking or other issues.

    The colour scheme has been skewed to give it a suitably period plantation flavour, with rich golden hues, strong contrast, blossoming but not overblown whites, and decent blacks levels – perhaps the only area where the film occasionally struggles, infrequently but noticeably, is at the expense of some shadow detail. Were it not for this, the film’s presentation would surely obtain a perfect-10 score.

    12 Years a Slave Blu-ray Sound Quality

    12 Years a Slave 12 Years a Slave Blu-ray Sound Quality
    The aural accompaniment is similarly impressive, with the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track delivering at every stage. Dialogue is given the respect and prominence that it deserves, dominating the frontal array wherever appropriate, whether it be through whispers or screams, rants or shouts, afforded clarity and coherence throughout.

    The audio track is just as sublime.

    Effects are wonderfully atmospheric and, although there’s obviously nothing bombastic about this material, the ambient observations can be just as striking, particularly when it comes to depicting a cattle-drove of slaves, bound by clanking chains. The track puts you right into the relevant environment, transforming your home into a plantation field, or a boat swimming through the water, or a muddy street, utilising the surrounds clinically and precisely; giving the film both breadth and depth. The score further drives the emotional elements of the piece, and, although the LFE channel is only used as nominal support, this is still demo treatment.

    12 Years a Slave Blu-ray Extras

    Whilst far from comprehensive, the Documentary-and-Featurette-based extras provide a wealth of information for those interested in both the film and its background. Headlined by 12 Years a Slave: A Historical Portrait, a 41-minute Documentary, and further enhanced by shorter accompanying Featurettes on The Score and The Team, we get an insight into the production which ranges from the preparation work done to the casting, from the performances to the shoot, to the set and the post-production work, including, of course, that score, with the usual plethora of cast and crew interview snippets dominating the piece. The disc is rounded off by the Trailer.

    Is 12 Years a Slave Blu-ray Worth Buying

    12 Years a Slave Is 12 Years a Slave Blu-ray Worth Buying
    Admittedly I’m in the minority in not unquestionably raving about this film, and in even attempting to criticise what most have heralded as one of the best films of the not-yet-over decade, but my issue is that some viewers and critics appear to have been swept up not by the movie, but by the theme, which carries with it a certain expectation. McQueen’s admittedly impressive feature was expected to be heralded as an important, Oscar-worthy, drama even before anybody had seen it, making it harder for those who merely think it was a good movie with some great performances to voice such an opinion.

    A must-see movie afforded demo treatment on Blu-ray, what’s not to like?.

    This Region B-locked UK Blu-ray boasts excellent video and audio as well as a nice little extras package, making for a must-have purchase for the many that will probably quite understandably feel obliged to have this in their collection.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99

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