Once again, the Toronto International Film Festival came and went. Numerous films screened, hype was built up, some films bombed, some broke even, and others exceeded preconceptions. So just like last year, in celebration of many of these films, I decided to make a list of my top seven most anticipated films coming from the festival. Please note that if you don’t see a favorite of yours, it’s because I’m not looking forward to it enough, not looking forward to it at all (*cough* Blue is the Warmest Color!), or I simply have never heard of it.
12 Years a Slave:
We'll start right off with this year’s winner of the festival’s People’s Choice Award, 12 Years a Slave. Directed by Steve McQueen (Hunger and Shame), the film tells the true story of Solomon Northup, a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery, working on Louisiana plantations for… well, 12 years. Everybody loves this movie, and there’s so much positive word built up behind it. The subject material sounds strong, and the film features a talented and eclectic ensemble cast, including Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender, who both garnered significant praise at the festival. Will it live up to the immense hype? We shall see.
Can a Song Save Your Life?:Okay, let’s take this from the top. This film is directed by John Carney (Once), stars Keira Knightley as a singer/songwriter, has a premise that sounds charming, has a supporting cast that includes Mark Ruffalo and Hailee Steinfeld, and features songs from Glen Hansard. This movie is here simply for the reason of EXISTING. End of discussion. Moving on…
The Fifth Estate:Maybe it’s the contrarian in me, but I still can’t help but be excited for this, even if the response surrounding this movie has me wary. Directed by Bill Condon, The Fifth Estate features Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange, the founder of the controversial site WikiLeaks, and details the site’s rise to infamy. While the negative reception is hard to ignore, I’m still eager for this. Assange’s history sounds like it should be fascinating, and with Benedict Cumberbatch having a banner year so far, I hope this one will be just as good for him.
If you read my top ten most anticipated films of the year post in April, you know I’m completely hyped to see Gravity. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star as a pair of astronauts on a shuttle mission above Earth, but when the shuttle is destroyed by debris, the two are left drifting in space. This is Alfonso Cuaron’s first film since Children of Men, the premise sounds great, the film’s trailers and technical qualities look outstanding, and with a reportedly career best performance from Bullock (critics love her), unanimous acclaim from TIFF, and director James Cameron calling it the best space film ever made, you can see why I’m so hyped.
Like Gravity, you probably know this was among my most anticipated films list in April, topping the list as my most anticipated. It still is, and after taking honors from the Cannes Film Festival (including Best Actress for Berenice Bejo), its debut at TIFF made me even more impatient. A man returns to France to finalize his divorce with his soon-to-be ex-wife, who is currently in a relationship with another man. I’m trying to avoid as many plot details and reviews as I can about this movie, so not to spoil any surprises. However, having been directed by Asghar Farhadi (A Separation), and starring Berenice Bejo, it sounds like it won’t disappoint.
The first English language film from Denis Villeneuve, Prisoners was one of the runners up for the People’s Choice Award. The film follows a small town carpenter whose daughter was kidnapped on Thanksgiving, and while a young detective oversees the investigation, the father tries to get information out of an RV owner he believes to be responsible for the kidnapping. The vibe of this film reminds me so much of David Fincher, and in fact, some critics have even compared it to Fincher’s own Zodiac. Plus, the fact that it has a talented cast lead by Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal doesn’t hurt.
Rush, the latest from director Ron Howard, details the rivalry between Formula 1 racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda in the 1970’s. Having little familiarity with Formula 1 racing, I initially wasn’t sure what to make of Rush. Despite being a fan of Ron Howard, the trailers didn’t exactly impress me either. It wasn’t until the strong critical reviews started rolling in that I finally got excited for it. Like I said, I’m not familiar with Hunt or Lauda, but I’m interested to see how stars Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl will play off of each other, and how Howard’s usually stellar craftsmen will handle the fast pace of the intense races.
Honorable Mentions: How I Live Now, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.