Special Feature: First trailer for ’12 Years a Slave’

Often said to be America’s ‘original sin’, slavery is a topic which has formed the basis of many a powerful drama. Most recently, Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg have each analysed the subject in their own unique ways in Django Unchained (2012) and Lincoln (2012) respectively, and the next to do so will be Steve McQueen. After garnering acclaim for Hunger (2008) and sex addiction drama Shame (2012), the director’s latest endeavour, 12 Years a Slave (2013), will see him tackle the oft-examined topic in typically candid fashion, with the first trailer released online earlier this morning. Based on an incredible true story, the film tells the harrowing tale of Solomon Northup (British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor).

Born a free black man in upstate New York and working as a talented violinist, Northup is kidnapped and sold into slavery. McQueen’s latest will thus follow his journey as he struggles to stay alive, encountering cruelty as well as kindness along the way. Bolstered by Hans Zimmer’s score from Terence Malick’s 1998 film The Thin Red Line, the footage displays some of the key moments of that journey, in addition to giving us a good look at Ejiofor’s protagonist. His performance already looks to be a significant one – his delivery of “I will survive. I will not fall into despair! I will keep myself hardy till freedom is opportune” is particularly telling – and although it’s still early days, it’s not hard to see why the Oscar buzz is there.

McQueen has assembled an unbelievable cast for this his next offering, including the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, Scoot McNairy, Michael Kenneth Williams, Quvenzhane Wallis, Alfre Woodard and many more. That the project attracted this many talented actors could be indicative of the power this story may hold. On the basis of the trailer, 12 Years a Slave has all the makings of a moving watch, and will certainly be one to keep an eye on as it nears its release date.

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave is released in UK cinemas on 24 January, 2014.

Amon Warmann