TIFF 2014: Day Eight

Our postcard dispatches form the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival for Thursday, September 11.

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Good Kill

Dear TIFF,

Good actors. Good script. Good director. Good timing. Good job.

Good Kill is the kind of film that slides nicely into your programming. Though there's some anticipation in seeing Ethan Hawk reteam with writer/director Andrew Niccol, any expectations are tempered by the fact both men have made some less than stellar projects since Gattaca (the Ford Mustang that Hawk's character drives throughout this film was a good reminder of that). Yet the story of a U.S. drone pilot feels rich for commentary, and Niccol doesn't waste the opportunity.

Instead of delivering an over-written thriller, Niccol is more interested in exploring the malaise and disconnect between drone pilots and their targets. He creates some nice visual parallels between the battlefields of Afghanistan and the dusty Nevada base of operations that lies just outside the wild nightlife of Vegas. All the best lines go to Bruce Greenwood as the commanding officer, who rattles off catchy acronyms and golden military nuggets (like "get your revenge in first."). But it's the lines like "Don't ask me if this is a just war. To us, it's just war," that give the film a conscience and prove the script isn't operating on autopilot.



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The Imitation Game‎

Dear TIFF,

This is The Important British film with a capital WWII that everyone at the festival has been waiting for. And wow, it delivers.

The story of mathematician/code-cracking genius Alan Turing was Oscar-bait the moment it was conceived as a screenplay. But what's amazing is how well everything is actually handled. The non-chronological structure helps to not only keep the pacing strong, the plot twists engaging, and the character turns more dynamic, but also ensures that the climax is properly chilling without a sagging denouement. It's an exceptional story told exceptionally well.

The cast is also in fine form, even if Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch was the too-obvious choice to play another brilliant, socially awkward techno wiz. Consider it his redemption for another similar role in a film that opened your fest last year. This time, he's given real heart and a full character arc, which finds a great dramatic ally in the film's already monumental historical stakes.

If enough people see the film, it's easily the most obvious (and maybe appropriate) choice for winning this year's famous Audience Award.



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