Managing editor Jess Cagle gives us the rundown on fall's most anticipated films

By EW Staff
August 10, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

It’s been said that in tough times, movie audiences look for fantasy and escape. But aren’t we always looking for that? I’m not sure that even if we were all feeling flush we’d start flocking en masse to movies designed to depress the hell out of us. A quick glance through this Fall Movie Preview (expertly edited by Jill Bernstein and Thom Geier) would indicate audiences are currently in the mood for history.

American presidents take center stage in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, and Hyde Park on Hudson, starring Bill Murray as Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Director Ben Affleck (I love saying that, because he’s a really good director) illuminates a little-known rescue mission from the 1979 Iran hostage crisis in Argo. Kathryn Bigelow, the Oscar-winning director of The Hurt Locker, tells the story of the ”unsung heroes” who spent a decade hunting down Osama bin Laden after 9/11 in Zero Dark Thirty. Quentin Tarantino dips into history for the fictional revenge thriller Django Unchained. Director Tom Hooper’s musical Les Misérables is set against the Paris uprising of 1832. What does all this mean, besides the fact that the Oscar race for best costumes will be especially cutthroat? Does it mean that in these uncertain times we look to history for answers? Does it mean that we hunger for leaders, like Lincoln and FDR, as our faith in today’s leaders crumbles? Or could it be that entirely by coincidence a bunch of fine directors?directors who currently have the power to get movies greenlit?happen to like politics and history? Regardless of the answer, these films make for a compelling fall lineup. Whether you want Paul Thomas Anderson or Edward/Bella/Jacob, our movie preview has plenty for you?including lots of action like Taken 2. Liam Neeson theorizes that Taken resonated with audiences’ mindset when it was released in 2009: ”During the whole economic collapse three or four years ago, here was a guy who wasn’t going to call the police when he was in trouble. I think people responded to that because they felt helpless and vulnerable, and here was a guy who just did not take any prisoners.” Or maybe there’s always been a little vigilante in all of us. And Liam Neeson, whatever the national mood, is perennially supercool.