Our First Look at Steve McQueen's '12 Years a Slave'

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The first trailer for 12 Years a Slave, a film that a lot of people expect to be a contender during awards season, has been released. Directed by Steve McQueen and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Benedict Cumberbatch, the movie, due out December 27, is the true story of Solomon Northup, a black man born free but then kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery. It's based on a book that Northup published in 1853, which you have already read if you are keeping up with Richard Lawson's summer reading list for fall movies.

12 Years a Slave is definitely different territory for McQueen, who most recently directed Fassbender in his schlong-showing turn in sex addict drama Shame. But the trailer suggests McQueen has taken to the intriguing historical drama genre. Ejiofor has always been underrated (just compare this trailer to his performance in Kinky Boots for a glimpse at his range), Fassbender looks snarlingly evil, and Brad Pitt, who shows up as a Canadian abolitionist, has yet another strange hairdo. Cumberbatch doesn't make an appearance in this trailer, but he has a habit of giving fantastic performances. 

We're mostly intrigued by what this means for the Oscar race, especially in the Best Actor category. In the entire history of the category, there have only been 16 black nominees and only four winners (Sidney Poitier, Jamie Foxx, Denzel Washington, and Forrest Whitaker). Back in May, coming out of Cannes, Kyle Buchanan at Vulture pointed out that there were already at least three black contenders for the category (all of whom in films released by the Weinstein Company): Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station, Forest Whitaker in The Butler, and Idris Elba in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Though Buchanan considered 12 Years a Slave (which is being distributed by Fox Searchlight) a "wild card," Ejiofor could end up extending that list to four, which could make for a particularly diverse year at the Oscars. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.