Chiwetel Ejiofor in '12 Years a Slave'Fox

Director Steve McQueen has never been one to shy away from emotionally wrenching subject matter, whether it's sex addiction ("Shame") or the IRA Hunger Strike of 1981 ("Hunger"). His newest film is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free man who lived in New York until he was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the pre-Civil War era.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, who has appeared in "Salt," "Children of Men," "Inside Man," and "Kinky Boots," is flexing his dramatic chops as Northup, a violinist turned plantation slave who has to find a way to survive in his new, terrible surroundings. In USA Today, McQueen described Ejiofor as "a Sidney Poitier or even Harry Belafonte. ... There's a certain kind of class and dignity about him. He brings that with him wherever he goes."

The ensemble cast is truly impressive, with McQueen's frequent collaborator Michael Fassbender starring as plantation owner Edwin Epps; Benedict Cumberbatch as Northup's first, much kinder owner; Quvenzhané Wallis as Northup's daughter; Sarah Paulson as Edwin's wife; and newcomer Lupita Nyong'o as Patsey, who becomes a friend to Northup on the Epps plantation.

Brad Pitt has a small role as an empathetic abolitionist, and as a producer behind the scenes. Alfre Woodard, Michael K. Williams, Scoot McNairy, Paul Dano, Garret Dillahunt, and Paul Giamatti also appear in what's sure to be an awards season contender once it hits theaters this fall.

Bring extra tissues when "12 Years a Slave" opens on October 18.

[via THR, USA Today]
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12 Years a Slave Movie Poster
12 Years a Slave
Based on 56 critics

In the years before the Civil War, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate... Read More