Spy thriller to close TIFF

Page Eight, Oscar-nominated David Hare's first directorial effort since 1997, was announced as the closing film for this year's Toronto International Film Festival, organizers announced Tuesday.

Page Eight, Oscar-nominated David Hare's first directorial effort since 1997, was announced as the closing film for this year's Toronto International Film Festival, organizers announced Tuesday.

The film casts Bill Nighy as a long-serving MI-5 officer whose operation is threatened when his boss and best friend dies.

British director Hare was nominated for an Academy Award for his screenwriting for The Reader and The Hours. Page Eight is expected to be a hot ticket at the festival, running Sept. 8 to 18.

Bill Nighy plays a spy in David Hare's Page Eight. ((Graham Hughes/Canadian Press))

"It's a very, very good movie," international programmer Jane Schoettle said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon.

"It's one of the smartest movies I've seen in a long time. And the performance by Bill Nighy is just a knockout. And Rachel Weisz is equally as good.

"But it's a really smart, good story, that has a lot of layers and I think it's just gonna be terrific. People will love it."

Lots of thrillers

Page Eight was one of several TIFF-bound thrillers announced Tuesday that have big stars attached.

Director Gary McKendry will premiere his first feature-length effort, Killer Elite, starring Jason Statham as a retired special ops agent who goes back to work to protect his mentor, played by Robert De Niro. His task? Taking down a team of assassins led by Clive Owen.

Marc Forster's Machine Gun Preacher, which is based on a true story, stars Gerard Butler as the former drug-dealing criminal Sam Childers, who finds redemption in the rescue of hundreds of kidnapped and orphaned children. 

And then there's Joel Schumacher's thriller Trespass, which showcases the reliably intense Nicolas Cage as a family man facing the possibility of losing everything — his beautiful wife (Nicole Kidman), teen daughter and lavish estate — during a vicious home invasion.

"What Trespass has is this fantastically atmospheric sense of foreboding and threat. There is not an overabundance of real violence in it, but it's the sense of foreboding and the menace that's in it that will keep people pinned to their seats."

Of course, plenty of other films geared toward different tastes have also been added to this year's slate.

Winnie Mandela biopic

South African director Darrell J. Roodt will premiere Winnie, a sensitive portrayal of Nelson Mandela's controversial ex-wife that has now actually been endorsed by a previously reluctant Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Violet & Daisy, meanwhile, marks the directorial debut of Precious screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher. His new movie follows a teenager's surreal and violent journey through New York, starring Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan (Atonement), Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls) and Sopranos star James Gandolfini. Schoettle says the film is "not like anything you've seen before."

Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal stars as the inventor of the vibrator. ((Peter Kramer/Associated Press))

Tanya Wexler's romantic comedy Hysteria could be similarly casts Maggie Gyllenhaal in the fact-based tale of the scientist who invented the first electro-mechanical vibrator.

"It has ancillary relevance in terms of women's rights and what was going on in terms of social and economic issues around that time," said Schoettle, who raved about Gyllenhaal's "standout" performance in the film.

 The international program will include 51 films from around the world — including the Cannes entry Footnote from Oscar nominee Joseph Cedar.

Its cutting-edge Visions program will feature ALPS, the latest film from Greek Dogtooth director Yorgos Lanthimos.

Franco, van Sant at Future Projections

Meanwhile, the Future Projections lineup — which focuses on moving-image artwork — could get a boost of star power.

This year's program will feature Memories of Idaho, a multi-part meditation on the well-loved 1991 road drama My Own Private Idaho, assembled by the movie's director Gus Van Sant and James Franco. 

The installation will be displayed publicly for free for the duration of the festival, as will works by Banksy-associated street artist Mr. Brainwash and Project Grizzly director Peter Lynch.