In 12 Years a Slave, award-winner Chiwetel Ejiofor – a fan-favorite thanks to his roles in sci-fi fare like Serenity and Children of Men – portray Solomon Northup, a real-life African-American musician who lived and raised his family in pre-Civil War New York. In 1841, Northup was tricked, kidnapped and sold into slavery, based on the lie that he was a runaway from Georgia; he thereafter spent (you guessed it) twelve years enslaved in the South, before he finally regained his freedom.

Steven McQueen directed 12 Years a Slave, based on an adapted script written by John Ridley (Three Kings, Red Tails). The cast includes Michael Fassbender – the star of McQueen’s arthouse favorites Hunger and Shame – in addition to Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek Into Darkness), Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story: Asylum), Paul Giamatti (The Amazing Spider-Man 2), Michael Kenneth Williams (Boardwalk Empire), Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Paul Dano (Prisoners), Scoot McNairy (Killing Them Softly) and relative newcomer Lupita Nyong’o.

Check out the first images from 12 Years a Slave (via USA Today):

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The 12 Years a Slave cast members aren’t the only ones who can boast about having impressive credentials, as the behind-the-scenes team includes director of photography Sean Bobbitt (The Place Beyond the Pines) – who also designed the cinematography for McQueen’s previous films – as well as production designer Adam Stockhausen (Moonrise Kingdom) and composer Hans Zimmer (Man of Steel), among others.

Really, between the great cast and subject matter, the only source for concern right now is the 12 Years a Slave script by Ridley, seeing how his Red Tails script work didn’t exactly appear to be enough to produce a compelling piece of historical drama onscreen (read Screen Rant‘s official review for more). Then again, the blame for that partly belongs to George Lucas – who was involved with producing, co-writing and directing reshoots on Red Tails – and so, given that McQueen called the shots on 12 Years a Slave, the final result should be (much) better.

12 Years a Slave begins a limited theatrical release in the U.S. on December 27th, 2013.

Source: USA Today