Fall Movie Preview 2011: Thrillers

Normally with only five thrillers I might combine them with horror, but these five films have earned their own category this fall. From remakes to films based on true events to a hypothetical worldwide pandemic, these thrillers have a shot at being Fall 2011’s best films. Well, next to dramas that is.


The Debt (Aug. 31)

Directed by John Madden
Written by Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman and Peter Straughan, Assaf Bernstein and Ido Rosenblum (Israeli film)
Starring: Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington

Summary: Three Israeli Mossad secret agents went on a perilous mission to hunt down a Nazi criminal in East Berlin in 1966. More than 30 years later, some new revelations arise about one of the three agents that sheds new light on their old mission.

The Word: “The Debt” went through considerable delays before finding a home with Focus Features, but the talent behind and in front of the camera has to be noted. Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman (the duo behind “Kick-Ass” and “X-Men: First Class”) wrote the script with help from Peter Straughan (“The Men Who Stare at Goats”) and John Madden directed “Shakespeare in Love.” The film stars venerated talents Mirren and Wilkinson and blossoming stars Worthington and Chastain.

My Thoughts: The talent here is impossible to ignore, but the peculiar middle-of-the-week Labor Day weekend release raises some questions that otherwise might not be there. One also has to wonder why this 2010 film kicked around for so long. Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing option.


Contagion (Sep. 9)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Scott Z. Burns
Starring: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law

Summary: A disease that transmits through skin-to-skin contact causes a global pandemic that a team of international doctors must quickly plan to stop.

The Word: Soderbergh returns to mainstream film with “The Informant!” writer Scott Z. Burns and they’ve roped in a cast that cannot be described with words, just a list: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, John Hawkes and more. The film appears to put the fad of global outbreak science-fiction films into as real of terms as possible.

My Thoughts: Everyone who sees this film will probably comes away with OCD, but it’s certainly fascinating in premise and in star power. I’m worried about it juggling too many story lines in trying to show how government is handling the outbreak as well as how it’s impacting people on an individual level, but Soderbergh has shown he can direct large ensembles successfully and handle multiple stories (“Traffic”).


Straw Dogs (Sep. 16)

Directed by Rod Lurie
Written by Rod Lurie, David Zelag Goodman and Sam Peckinpah (1971 film), Gordon Williams (novel)
Starring: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgård

Summary: A couple relocates from Los Angeles to the Deep South where they become wrapped up in a nasty local conflict that pushes them to the brink.

The Word: This film is a remake of the Dustin Hoffman film directed by Sam Peckinpah that’s 40 years its senior. The setting goes from rural England to Redneck Country, USA, but the plot remains the same. Rod Lurie (“Nothing But the Truth” and “Resurrecting the Champ”) directs his adaptation of the original screenplay.

My Thoughts: When it comes to remakes, I generally say leave the films that were good alone and remake the promising ones that turned out decent/okay. Honestly, I knew nothing about the original film but I’m now much more intrigued to see it than I am to see the remake, that’s for sure.


Texas Killing Fields (Limited, Oct. 7)

Directed by Ami Canaan Mann
Written by Don Ferrarone
Starring: Sam Worthington, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jessica Chastain, Chloe Moretz

Summary: A pair of detectives start to investigate the Texas bayous the locals call “the killing fields” where a serial killer has been dumping the mutilated bodies of his victims. As they go beyond their jurisdiction to track down the killer, the killer goes after them.

The Word: This classic serial killer thriller comes from Ami Mann, daughter of Michael Mann (“Heat”). The actors here all have rising profiles and the plot hits all the proper notes of a murder mystery. The script comes from first-time writer Don Ferrarone, who previously did crew work for a couple Tony Scott action thrillers including “Man on Fire.” Amusingly, this is the second film in this list of five fall thrillers that pairs Worthington and Chastain.

My Thoughts: Everything looks pretty standard order in this film as far as thrillers about serial killers go. The talent behind the camera definitely could use a few more seasons behind its belt, but the talent definitely helps elevate the film’s profile


Margin Call (Limited, Oct. 21)

Written and Directed by J.C. Chandor
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto, Jeremy Irons, Paul Bettany

Summary: In 2008, several key members of an investment bank come across information suggesting the major economic downturn and must make some important decisions on what to do about it.

The Word: If you’re J.C. Chandor, scoring this loaded ensemble cast for your first feature-length film has to feel good. There’s Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stanely Tucci, Paul Bettany, Simon Baker, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore and “Star Trek” star Zachary Quinto, whose career should have skyrocketed by now after his turn as Spock. The film premiered at Sundance and while it didn’t make the most waves, still has positive early reviews.

My Thoughts: A good corporate thriller has few equals, especially a timely one. Many average joes who know little about how money works (myself) will likely find this a fascinating bit of cinema. It’s also hard to ignore this cast too: vets such as Spacey, Irons and Tucci along with Moore, who rarely makes an appearance these days.


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