Fox Searchlight will open Steve McQueen‘s Twelve Years A Slave on 12.27 — a default Oscar-bait slot. McQueen, screenwriter John Ridley and costars Chiwetel (a.k.a. “Chewy”) Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodard and Paul Giamatti will surely deliver the goods. But this will probably land a Best Picture nom on the strength of its moral fibre alone.

It wasn’t enough that Django Unchained reminded us last year that slavery was a very bad thing. We need to go there again, methinks, and perhaps several more times.

From a distance this feels like another Cold Mountain with a little dash of Amistad…another movie about a guy walking through the woods (metaphorical and literal) but this time in chains, enduring terrible ordeals on the long road back to freedom as he longs for the love of his wife and children.

Based on Solomon Northup’s 1853 tale (published a year or two after Harriett Beecher Stowe‘s Uncle Tom’s Cabin), McQueen’s film is set in pre-Civil War United States (1840 to ’53), and is about Northup (Ejiofor), a free African-American from upstate New York, being abducted and sold into slavery. Fassbender gets to play a Simon Legree-like ogre and twirl his moustache as Solomon “struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity.” This, of course, is what Chewy has always done to perfection.

The synopsis implies that deliverance finally comes when Northup meets up with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt). Twelve years a slave but freed at last by the Moneyball guy!