“The Fifth Estate”
Synopsis: Chronicles the early days and rise of Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange, as he navigates the line between moral responsibility and journalistic ethics with co-founder Daniel Domscheit-Berg.
What You Need To Know: No drama arriving this fall is as plugged into the current newscycle and zeitgeist as “The Fifth Estate.” With Bradley Manning recently sentenced, Edward Snowden on the run and Assange still holed up in an Ecuadorian embassy, all as more continues to leak about the reach and extent of the NSA's nefarious activities, this movie couldn’t be arriving at a better time. But will it vilify Assange or make him the hero? That’s the crucial question here and there are significant perils in going too far in either direction. But while the cast is rock-solid, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Bruhl as the Wiki founders and friends who later fracture, and a knockout supporting lineup in Anthony Mackie, David Thewlis, Alicia Vikander, Peter Capaldi, Carice van Houten, Dan Stevens, Stanley Tucci and Laura Linney. The question here is director Bill Condon, who is coming off two “Twilight” movies and whose previous effort was the flashy “Dreamgirls.” Could this been the meaty movie he’s been aching to bite into? If so, it could have considerable punch.
“August: Osage County”
Synopsis: Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tracy Letts, the story follows the women of the Weston family who are brought back to the family home in the wake of a crisis and forced to confront each other and their past.
What You Need To Know: The Weinstein Company certainly weren’t messing around when casting up this project, with heavyweights Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts leading an all-star cast that includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, Sam Shepard, Abigail Breslin, Chris Cooper, Juliette Lewis and much more. On paper this sounds like a no-brainer home run: celebrated play + dream team cast = awards glory, right? Well, that will be up to director John Wells, whose last time out was the respectable economic crisis drama “The Company Men.” But so much of the heavy lifting is done already with this one that if the sparks fly like they should — and given this talent, there’s no reason they shouldn’t — this could be irresistible both to audiences and critics at large.
Synopsis: Based on the case of the West Memphis Three, when three young children are found brutally murdered, suspicion is immediately cast on a trio of friends, and outsider teens. But their arrest and conviction is just the start of a case where darker truths are yet to surface.
What You Need To Know: Is there anything left to say about the West Memphis Three after four acclaimed documentaries (and much more) about the case which gripped the nation and galvanized scores of activists? The answer may be no, but in dramatizing this tragic, haunting, infuriating and disturbing story director Atom Egoyan, working from a script from Scott Derrickson, may find a new way to tell this familiar tale. The participation of Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr — two of the three real-life accused — as executive producers does potentially promise some unique insight into the story, while an outstanding cast (Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, Dane DeHaan, Mireille Enos, Bruce Greenwood, Elias Koteas, Amy Ryan and more) could potentially bring further shades and textures to an already gripping saga. While Egoyan hasn’t always been the most consistent director, when he’s on top of his game he’s hard to beat, so this is another distributor-less picture that could shake up the fall season if it breaks out at TIFF.
“The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her" & "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him"
Synopsis: Two companion-piece films that examine the dissolution of a marriage after the wife decides to go back to college, shown from the different perspectives of each half of the couple, as they struggle to regain their old connection.
What You Need To Know: Brimful of ambition, the intriguing concept of making two interlocking but distinct films out of a single relationship drama is certainly novel and the fact that it has overcome potential distribution difficulties, and tricky marketing conundrums to get made at all is a clear signal that someone up there has great faith in the scripts, and in first-time writer/director Ned Benson. Another clear signal is the mouthwatering cast; quite aside from perennial Playlist favorites Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy in the lead roles, there's Viola Davis, Ciaran Hinds, Nina Arianda, Isabelle Huppert, William Hurt, Jess Weixler and Bill Hader in support. We're not sure how this is going to make its way to theaters and while it has a lot of potential, as we mentioned in our Awards Dark Horses feature, the two-part structure could end up working against it in terms of categorisation for awards purposes. But we've been following this one pretty closely since we first heard about it and are anxious to see if neophyte Benson makes good on a vertiginously high concept. And we can't help but root for a project that bets so high. (Side note: this will be screening in Toronto as a "work-in-progress" rather than a completed film).
Synopsis: A downtrodden government employee encounters a mysterious doppelgänger, who resembles him completely but is his opposite personality-wise: confident, charismatic and good with women. Slowly, the newcomer begins to take over his life.
What You Need To Know: We were fans of Richard Ayoade's off-kilter, low-key debut “Submarine,” and for his sophomore outing, the comic actor-turned-writer/director is leaping up a grade in terms of ambition and potential risk in adapting the famous story by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and transposing it to contemporary America. The script, written by Ayoade and Avi Korine, will be helped along by a strong cast, not least Jesse Eisenberg whose "The Social Network" turn proved he can navigate morally ambivalent and socially awkward roles with ease. And when you have ringers Mia Wasikowska (who it feels like has had a different film in every 2013 festival we've been to) and Noah Taylor also featuring, and early pictures that evoke the uneasy mood as clearly as these, the portents are very good indeed. And happily there's little danger of anyone confusing it with the Richard Gere/Topher Grace movie of the same name, because pretty much no one saw that.