Toronto Film Festival Preview – Top 15 Films

Some film pundits might try to tell you the Toronto International Film Festival is starting to lose out to Venice and Telluride in the race to ‘launch’ Oscar-worthy films. I’d argue that’s rubbish; the sheer number of world premieres and A-list celebs TIFF is attracting this year makes me think it’s now the leading film festival in the world – even ahead of Cannes.

This year’s festival begins on September 5 and below is my pick of the top 15 films in the line-up (sorry, I couldn’t whittle it down any further):

1. The Fifth Estate – This year’s festival opens with one of the most anticipated films of the year, the true-life story of Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch in a glorious fright wig alongside Daniel Bruhl, Dan Stevens, Laura Linney and Peter Capaldi. It’s a cast to die for. The only stumbling block may be director Bill Condon whose last two films were the final Twilight instalments. Here’s hoping he’s found his form again.

2. 12 Years A Slave – Steve McQueen’s epic has already screened at Telluride this weekend to stunning reviews for both the film and star Chiwetel Ejiofor. It’s got probably the best male cast at this year’s festival: Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, and Benedict Cumberbatch (this year’s TIFF is the year of the ‘Batch). McQueen’s work can be tough to watch and uncompromising, but he always draws fantastic performances from his actors.

3. The Railway Man – Oscar-winners Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman play husband and wife in this true-life tale of Eric Lomax, a victim of the Second World War’s Death Railway who sets out to find those who tortured him. Jeremy Irvine co-stars as the younger Lomax. (Flicks And The City spoke to Jeremy Irvine just after he’d finished filming The Railway Man last year. Check out the video below to see what he said – starts at 12.31)

4. Prisoners – another one that screened to rapturous applause at Telluride at the weekend. Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard and Melissa Leo star. With a cast like that it can’t really fail. The story follows the disappearance of two young girls. Denis Villeneuve directs.

5. Labor Day – Jason Reitman’s back with a drama about a single mother and her son who help an escaped convict. It stars Oscar-favourite Kate Winslet alongside Josh Brolin, Tobey Maguire and Clark Gregg who’s been allowed away from SHIELD for a bit.

6. Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom – Can anyone beat Idris Elba to the Oscar this year? Can the Academy resist his turn as the iconic South African? I guess we’ll find out once the film screens at TIFF. Naomie Harris co-stars as Winnie.

7. Can A Song Save Your Life? – Keira Knightley sings? Yeah, I’m not sure about this one but it definitely intrigues me. She plays a young singer-songwriter who forms a bond with a jaded music industry executive played by Mark Ruffalo. The cast also includes Hailee Steinfeld, Adam Levine, Cee-Lo Green and James Corden. Whatever it is, I think it’ll be interesting.

8. The Double – Richard Ayoade’s latest film as a director is a comedy about a man driven insane by the appearance of his doppelganger. Whilst I didn’t love Submarine as much as a lot of critics, I’m still interested to see what this will be like. Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska star.

9. Fading Gigolo – Woody Allen acts! John Turturro directs. What more do you need me to tell you?

10. Dallas Buyers Club – a lot of people think this could be Matthew McConaughey’s year. He’s certainly put some of those terrible rom-coms to bed (Failure to Launch anyone?). He plays Ron Woodruff who takes on the Texas medical establishment and pharmaceutical companies after being diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1986. As good as McConaughey looks in the trailer, could it be co-star Jared Leto who steals the film from under his nose?

11. Gravity – Yes, I know it’s already been at Venice, but any film with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock has to be worth a watch, doesn’t it?

12. Devil’s Knot – If you saw the amazing West of Memphis at last year’s London Film Festival, you’ll know a little of this story. Reese Witherspoon leads as the mother of one of three boys murdered in a so-called satanic ritual. Stephen Moyer, Colin Firth and Alessandro Nivola co-star; Atom Egoyan directs.

13. Dom Hemingway – Jude Law in what looks like a good film shocker! He finally ditches the pretty boy roles to star as a safe-cracker who serves 12 years for a crime he didn’t commit.

14. August: Osage County – If 12 Years A Slave has the best male cast, then this has the best female one: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis, and Abigail Breslin. And it also stars Ewan McGregor, Dermot Mulroney and Benedict Cumberbatch (I told you it’s his year). Directed by prolific TV producer John Wells and produced by a certain George Clooney. It also has my favourite song in any trailer this year, Man On Fire by Edward Sharpe.

15. Don Jon – Joseph Gordon-Levitt directs, writes and stars in this comedy-drama about a young man who has unrealistic expectations when it comes to his love life. Scarlett Johansson stars as the object of his affection. Again, the trailer looks a lot of fun.

So, those are my choices (there could have been more). Now I’m off to sulk about the fact I’m not going.