This year's Oscar race is about to heat up.
The first trailer for 12 Years a Slave has hit the Web, and anyone wishing the underrated Chiwetel Ejiofor would finally get the stateside acclaim he's long deserved can look no further than this intense slave saga costarring Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender.
Here are five reasons we think this film is going to be a leading contender come awards season, including a Best Actor Academy Award nomination for the London-born thesp:
1. Forget Django, Meet Solomon: Ejiofor is best known to American audiences for mostly strong supporting roles in such flicks as 1997's Amistad, 2003's Love Actually, 2006's Children of Men and 2007's American Gangster. He's also had leading parts in 2002's Dirty Pretty Things and 2005's Kinky Boots. But his turn in 12 Years a Slave just might be the career-defining performance that makes him a true Hollywood leading man. Here Chiwetel chews scenery as Solomon Northup, a free black man who's kidnapped in Washington, D.C., in 1841 and sent to Louisiana to work for 12 years on a plantation.
2. It's Got Steve McQueen: No, we're not talking about the late Tinseltown star but rather the English-born filmmaker of the same name who made waves on the big-screen with 2008's Hunger and 2011's Shame (both of which starred Fassbender). As the director of 12 Years, McQueen, who is black, will bring a critical eye to the issues of race and violence in this movie based on a true story in a more serious light than Quentin Tarantino's comedic revenge opus, Django Unchained.
3. It's Got Amish Brad: Pitt costars as Bass, a Canadian carpenter and abolitionist who, along with his Amish beard, befriends Solomon by chance after he arrives on the plantation and does his best to help him win his freedom back.
4. Ever the Villain: After McQueen launched him to fame in Hunger, Fassbender's gone on to play bad guys from Professor X in X-Men: First Class to a bad robot in Prometheus. In 12 Years, the German-Irish actor essays the character of Edwin Epps, the vicious plantation owner who torments Solomon during his days in captivity.
12 Years a Slave, which was filmed in New Orleans and is being distributed by Fox Searchlight, is slated to hit theaters on Oct. 18.