2013 Toronto International Film Festival preview

While there might be some overlap with Venice and a little stolen thunder (at least for hardcore cinephiles) thanks to Telluride, that doesn’t make the TIFF lineup this year any less spectacular. In fact this year's slate — that runs as deep as it does long — works more than ever to make those other festivals, impressive though they may individually be, feel a little like the throat-clearings before the main event. Boasting a staggering array of splashy premieres, the latest from a barrage of auteurs and a host of indie efforts that have hitherto flown below the radar but that could surprise in a big way, it feels like the TIFF 2013 program may be their most packed ever (though we seem to say that every year). So whilst our attendees face the unenviable (but actually extremely enviable) task of working out their schedules, we've dug through the near and far corners of this embarrassment of riches to highlight the 15 films we're most anticipating from this year's Toronto International Film Festival. It wasn't an easy choice.

To make it slightly more manageable, however, we’ve excluded the following films because we've already seen them very recently in either Venice or Telluride (titles are linked to reviews): Jason Reitman’s “Labor Day,” Jonathan Glazer’s “Under The Skin,” starring Scarlett JohanssonAlfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity”; the Michael Fassbender-starring “12 Years A Slave”; Kelly Reichardt’s “Night Moves”; Ralph Fiennes’ “The Invisible Woman"; Ti West's "The Sacrament"; David Gordon Green’s “Joe” starring Nicolas Cage, John Curran's "Tracks,"and Hayao Miyazaki's alleged last film, "The Wind Rises." And what with Venice being ongoing we'll still be getting reviews from there, including one of our Venice most anticipated: Errol Morris' "The Unknown Known," which should arrive later today.

And there is also a clutch of Cannes or Sundance titles that we caught earlier in the year and so won't feature here, including: Joseph Gordon Levitt’s “Don Jon,” “Kill Your Darlings,Guillame Canet's “Blood Ties,” Alex van Warmerdam's “Borgman,” "Claire Denis’ “Bastards” and Palme D'Or winner “Blue Is The Warmest Color.” But despite all these exclusions, TIFF 2013 still gave us a run for our money in narrowing the field of our most anticipated down to 15, but we did it, and here they are.

Dallas Buyers Club

"Dallas Buyer’s Club"
Synopsis: Based on a true story, the film is set in the ‘80s and centers on Ron Woodruff, newly diagnosed with AIDS and given 30 days to live. Fighting for his life and against the system, Ron begins to take and distribute non-FDA approved drugs extending his life, as well as others infected with the disease.
What You Need To Know: Could Matthew McConaughey’s streak of acclaimed films end with an Oscar nomination? Well, he’s certainly giving the Academy the kind of stuff they love, dropping down to a skeletal weight, and playing an everyman struck down with a life-ending illness. But beyond that, this years-in-the-making picture has attracted headlines for a while now. Previous incarnations that didn’t get off the ground included a version with Marc Forster directing Brad Pitt (they would ultimately collaborate on this summer’s “World War Z”) and a take with Ryan Gosling starring for his “Lars And The Real Girl” helmer Craig Gillespie. But this time around it’s rising filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallee who has gotten behind camera, proving himself with two very well-received but perhaps underrated efforts in “C.R.A.Z.Y.” and “The Young Victoria.” Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn and a rather surprising turn by Jared Leto round things out in support, and it could all be a prescription for a success. Watch the trailer here.

The Railway Man

The Railway Man
Synopsis: Based on the memoir by Eric Lomax, this true story tells the tale of a Scottish second lieutenant who was captured by the Japanese in Singapore during the war, and shipped off to a camp in Thailand, where he suffered terrible tortures and became a forced labourer. Years later, he still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, until his second wife, Patricia Wallace, helps him to seek out closure by contacting his former captors.
What You Need To Know: The pairing of Colin Firth with Nicole Kidman is all you really need to know, with the duo apparently getting on so famously that they are already looking for another project to do together. But the other credits are strong too, with Frank Cottrell Boyce ("Millions," "24 Hour Party People") penning the script and Jonathan Teplitzky (who delivered the buzz-building “Burning Man”) behind the camera. In addition, we’ve also listed this one as one of the 10 Awards Season Movies That Could Be Surprise Contenders, noting that early buzz has been good, particularly around Hiroyuki Sanada who plays the cruel Japanese guard and ruthless torturer of Eric. The movie currently has no U.S. distributor but prognosticators will be keeping an eye out to see how it plays and if it wins over audiences, this could be quickly summoned into the race.

An Enemy Jake Gyllenhaal

Synopsis: A troubled university lecturer discovers he has a double, an identical lookalike, or a possible twin who is married with a baby on the way.
What you need to know: Academy Award-nominated Best Foreign Language Film director Denis Villeneuve (“Incendies”) and Jake Gyllenhaal deliver a double shot at the Toronto International Film Festival this year and "Enemy" is the second of this one-two punch. It could prove to be as lethal as their first shot, the abduction crime thriller "Prisoners" which wowed audiences in Telluride, including our critic (read our review here). An adaptation of the Nobel Prize-winning author José Saramago’s novel “The Double” (and not the thematically similar Dostoyevsky book of the same name which confusingly, features elsewhere on this list) this psychological thriller sounds a little bit more damaged and arthouse than Villeneuve's aforementioned studio film and given uncompromising nature of that picture, we're rather psyched to see how “Enemy” turns out. There's also Jake Gyllenhaal who's pulling double duty as the doppelgängers and that's always a fascinating challenge. Melanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon and Isabella Rossellini round out what is an impressive supporting cast.