The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is one of the largest and most prestigious film festivals in the world. With hundreds of films screening over 10 days, even TIFF veterans find it difficult to catch every movie on their wish list. With TIFF just about to kick-off, I sat down and wrote down my essential viewing list. It should be noted that my essential viewing list isn’t comprised of the films that I believe will garner the most prestige or bring home the highest box-office returns. Instead, I’ve comprised a list of the films that I most look forward to viewing (in no particular order). My great appreciation for genre/crime movies heavily influenced which films made the top ten.
A ruthless Sikh mobster leads his soldiers into a turf war for control of the Vancouver drugs- and arms-trafficking rackets, in this gangland drama from the great Deepa Mehta (Water, Midnight’s Children).
In Beeba Boys, TIFF veteran Deepa Mehta crafts an explosive crime-drama set on Canada’s west coast. Yes, yes and yes. I’m all in on this one. I have a soft spot for the gangster movie genre, combine that with Mehta’s script which offers a uniquely Canadian perspective on marginalization, crime, and violence and this is one film that is guaranteed a spot on my must see list.
Tom Hardy gives a bravura double performance as Reggie and Ronnie Kray, the identical twin brothers who became the rulers of the London underworld at the height of the swinging ’60s.
Director Brian Helgeland is a genius. Helgeland is the first human being on the planet to formulate the notion that the only thing better than Tom Hardy in a movie is two Tom Hardys in a movie. Give Helgeland his Oscar right now, everyone else is fighting for second place.
Je Suis Charlie
Emmanuel and Daniel Leconte’s film is a document of the social upheaval that followed [the Charlie Hebdo Attacks], as seen through television footage as well as the filmmakers’ own cameras. In this sense, Je suis Charlie is a public record; but its true power lies within the interviews the Lecontes collect from both before and after the assault on the Charlie Hebdo journalists.
Je suis Charlie is a documentary that people will surely be talking about throughout the festival. The film features interviews with the surviving members of the editorial team. Heavy but essential viewing.
An idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt) joins two shadowy government operatives (Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro) in a high-risk, cross-border sting against a Mexican cartel boss, in this gritty drug-war thriller from Quebec’s Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners).
My TIFF experience is never complete until I watch at least one mainstream Hollywood film. Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro are all actors I would happily pay to see if any one of the three were the sole star of their own film. Having these three actors form a law enforcement hydra in order to take down the Mexican cartel sounds like the recipe for movie magic.
A beautiful assassin (Shu Qi) is sent to kill the powerful lord who was once her betrothed, in this sumptuous martial-arts epic from Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien (Flight of the Red Balloon).
Martial-arts. Epic. Those are the only words in the synopsis that should matter to anyone. I’m in. I’m all in.
The astonishing feature debut by director Robert Eggers evokes Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining in its tale of a family of settlers in 17th-century New England who encounter mysterious, possibly supernatural forces when they are exiled from their village and forced to live on the outskirts of an ominous forest.
There has been plenty of buzz over The Witch ever since it played at Sundance. I’ve been doing my best to avoid the plot’s gritty details so that I go into the movie blind. What I do know about the film is that it takes a slow burn approach to scaring the audience and then masterfully ratchets up the psychological terror. Any film that evokes references to Kubrick’s The Shining is in line for my unabashed attention.
Winner of the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes, this powerful drama from director Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Rust & Bone) follows a former Tamil Tiger soldier as he flees from the aftermath of the Sri Lankan civil war to begin a new life in a Parisian suburb.
I became a fan of Jacques Audiard after watching A Prophet. Rust and Bone is one of those films that I’m always meaning to watch but never get around to it. When you combine Dheepan’s hauntingly beautiful trailer with the fact that the film won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes, this movie becomes essential TIFF viewing.
Japanese cinematic extremist Takashi Miike (13 Assassins) returns to his gonzo roots with this mind-melter that finds room for vampires, gangsters, earthquakes, volcanoes, monsters, martial arts, and even a yakuza knitting circle.
I watched the trailer before I read the synopsis for Yakuza Apocalypse and the film made utterly no sense to me. I read the synopsis for Yakuza Apocalyspe and the premise of the film made maybe 7% more sense. Does that deter me from placing it in my must see top? Nope! Yakuza Apocalyse is essential TIFF viewing.
Julie Delpy (Before Midnight) writes, directs and stars in this satirical comedy about fortysomething workaholic Violette, who finds romance while on a spa vacation — but whose new beau soon has doubts when he discovers Violette’s unusual relationship with her 20-year-old son.
This film makes it onto the list solely because I have a soft spot for Julie Delpy movies. Julie Delpy movies are never my favorite movies of the year, but they are often some of the most memorable. Julie Delpy has an intangible quality, an artistic frequency that just resonates with the core of my being. I know there are other movies at TIFF that will be better than Lolo, but there are less than a handful of films that I’ll find as memorable.
Stranded on Mars, a NASA astronaut (Matt Damon) struggles to survive on the arid planet while his ground crew races to mount a rescue mission, in this interplanetary epic from director Ridley Scott.
Say what you want about the overall quality of Scott’s last few pictures, when it comes to visual panache, the man is right up there with the best of them. Perhaps combining Andy Weir’s novel, Drew Goddard’s screenplay, and Scott’s unique vision behind the camera will result in a film that delivers on the promise of the Prometheus trailer.
All film descriptions listed above are official TIFF synopses.