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WATCH: The star-studded trailer for 12 Years a Slave: The Extraordinary True Story of Solomon Northup
Director Steve McQueen's upcoming film, which stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as a free man captured and sold into slavery, is an early Oscar contender
 

It's only July, but studios are already rolling out trailers in advance of the fall Oscar season — and this first look at director Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, which recounts the incredible true story of Solomon Northup, might be the most promising yet.

12 Years a Slave stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as free-born New Yorker Solomon Northup, who was drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery in Louisiana. "You're no free man. You're nothing but a Georgia runaway," sneers one of his captors as he drags Solomon in chains to the South to begin what will turn out to be 12 years in slavery. "If you want to survive, do and say as little as possible," advises one of Northup's fellow slaves. "Well, I don't want to survive," says Northup. "I want to live."

12 Years a Slave is also director Steve McQueen's third consecutive collaboration with Michael Fassbender, who also starred in 2008's Hunger and 2011's Shame. In addition to Ejiofor and Fassbender, the film stars a staggering list of talented actors, including Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfre Woodard, Paul Dano, Michael K. Williams, Quvenzhane Wallis, and Brad Pitt, who also serves as a producer. Though 12 Years a Slave was originally slated to hit theaters in December, early test screenings were so enthusiastic that Fox Searchlight bumped the film's release to October. All signs point to 12 Years a Slave as an early favorite at the 2014 Academy Awards — but we'll find out for sure when the film hits theaters on October 18.

 
Scott Meslow is the entertainment editor and film and television critic for TheWeek.com. He has written about film and television at publications including The AtlanticPOLITICO Magazine, and Vulture.

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