Toronto always announces the return of serious films to the movie calendar. Again this year, the festival tackles tough subjects like Iraq and Iran, corporate and personal betrayal. Here, in alphabetical order, are 10 films generating lots of pre-festival buzz. Some of them may win Oscars, others will tank. And, no doubt, a movie on nobody's radar before the festival will still be the word-of-mouth hit of 2007.
BODY OF WAR
It happens that Sept. 11 always falls in the middle of the Festival, and Toronto has lately scheduled political films on that solemn anniversary. This documentary, co-directed by pioneer U.S. talk-show host Phil Donahue, traces the postwar life of Iraq vet Tomas Young, paralyzed by a bullet to the spine, and the congressional debate over the occupation.
THE BRAVE ONE
Jodie Foster, returning to the sexual-attack theme of her Oscar-winning The Accused, plays a New York City radio personality who responds to an assault by going on her own private revenge spree. Neil Jordan, whose The Crying Game got a big Toronto boost 15 years ago, directs.
The new melodrama from David Cronenberg, the Canadian director with three decades of weird thrills on his résumé, has the vibe of his last one, A History of Violence. Viggo Mortenson is again a charismatic mystery man involved with organized crime. This time, in a script by Steve Knight (Dirty Pretty Things), it's the Russian mob in London. Naomi Watts plays the innocent trapped in a toxic web.
ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE
Nine years ago, Cate Blanchett brought her biopic of England's legendary Tudor queen to Toronto; this smart, stately film garnered seven Oscar nominations. Blanchett re-teams with director Shekhar Kapur for the sequel, about Elizabeth and Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen).
4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS
In the dank days of the Ceausescu regime, a college girl seeks an illegal abortion, and finds just the wrong guy to perform it. Beautifully acted, and as creepy as any horror movie, Christian Mungiu's drama earned the top prize at this year's Cannes.
IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH
Canadian Paul Haggis premiered Crash here in 2004. Later it won the Oscar for Best Picture. His new one details the search for a vanished Iraq war vet by his parents and a detective. Oscar winners Tommy Lee Jones, Susan Sarandon and Charlize Theron star.
Ang Lee, whose Toronto favorite Brokeback Mountain lost the big Oscar to Crash, has a Chinese drama set in wartime Shanghai starring Tony Leung Chiu-wai (Hero) and new face Tang Wei. The movie must be steamy; the U.S. ratings board slapped a proscriptive NC-17 on it.
George Clooney lends his old-time movie-star aura to the role of a "fixer" getting clients out of trouble in a large law firm. Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton co-star in this exposé of corporate chicanery.
In their '90s heyday, Iranian films often refracted social drama through the prism of a young girl's viewpoint. Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical cartoon is the tale of her life in Tehran under two despots, the Shah and the Ayatollah. Harrowing yet buoyant, Persepolis earned the Jury Prize at Cannes and the official scorn of the Iranian clerics.
As in "extraordinary rendition," the euphemism for the U.S. government's policy to outsource the torturing of terror suspects. Reese Witherspoon is the wife of one such unfortunate: Jake Gyllenhaal, a young CIA officer, with Meryl Streep as his brass-hard boss. It's just the sort of movie Toronto loves: important, politically relevant and studded with star power.