The following short reviews of some of the films screening on Saturday, Sept. 18 at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival are by James Adams, James Bradshaw, Guy Dixon, Rick Groen, Liam Lacey, Gayle MacDonald, Dave McGinn, J. Kelly Nestruck, Johanna Schneller and Brad Wheeler. The star ratings are out of four.
127 Hours Danny Boyle (USA)
The Oscar-winning director's film is based on the true story of Aron Ralston, an avid outdoorsman who has a freak accident, and finds himself trapped in a deep crevasse, his right hand crushed under a boulder, in the canyons around Moab, Utah. In the hands of a less skilled craftsman, the story - one man, little dialogue, in a crammed space - could have been a snore. But with the same deft touch, sensitivity, rapid-fire editing, and superb score he brought to Slumdog Millionaire, Boyle turns the near-death tale into a riveting re-enactment that will keep audiences squirming in their seats. James Franco gives a brilliant, nuanced performance as Ralston, a young man who tries every means at his disposal to move the rock before he makes the one decisive act - the self-amputation of his own forearm - to get back to the family he loves. G.M.
Sept. 18, 6 p.m., Bell Lightbox 1
Henry's Crime Malcolm Venville (USA)
Henry (Keanu Reeves) lives a dull life. He works as a highway toll-booth operator in Buffalo. He stares blankly at everything, even when his wife raises the idea of having a baby. So when he is sent to prison for a bank robbery he did not commit, Henry sees it as an escape. While Henry is in prison, his cellmate Max (James Caan) convinces him that "if you've done the time, you might as well do the crime." Henry leaves jail intent on robbing the bank with Max's help. He is now a man with a purpose. But when Henry meets an amateur actress played by Vera Farmiga, and soon begins acting alongside her in a Chekhov play, he must choose between following through on his plan or following his heart. As a heist movie that is also a romantic comedy, Henry's Crime fails at both, with little tension to the robbery and few laughs throughout. It will leave you with the same blank stare Henry comes home from work with. D.M.
Sept. 18, 5:30 p.m., Varsity 8
Cave of Forgotten Dreams Werner Herzog (USA)
Hidden in a limestone cliff in the south of France lies the rarest, oldest, possibly most intellectually fascinating artwork ever found. Werner Herzog took a camera crew equipped with 3-D cameras into the heavily protected Chauvet Cave, which contains what is believed to be the oldest cave paintings, drawn some 35,000 years ago. Because of the cave's delicate environment, no other film crew is expected to be allowed in again. Part documentary, part scientific footage, Herzog's film lingers on the mesmerizing drawings, produced incredibly when prehistoric animals still roamed the Earth and Neanderthals were still a competing human species. A historic, invaluable film. G.D.
Sept. 18, 9 p.m., Bell Lightbox 1
The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town Thom Zimny (USA)
Using unearthed footage from recording sessions and home rehearsals from 1976-78 as well as new interviews, the making of Bruce Springsteen's raw-powered album Darkness on the Edge of Town is explored in depth. Starting with a lawsuit that delayed the sessions and continuing with Springsteen's unwavering pursuit for the album's lean, hardened sound, Darkness was epic in its making, if not in its result. Where 1975's grander Born to Run celebrated escape and youthful abandon, Darkness had Springsteen dealing with the limitations of adulthood. With an unvarnished, illuminating film on the creative process of an iconic artist, director Zimny matches his subject's dogged focus. B.W.
Sept. 18, 6:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m., Scotiabank 1
I'm Still Here Casey Affleck (USA)
For an hour and a half or so, Casey Affleck's experimental "documentary" on his brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix's apparent breakdown manages to keep the viewer trying to follow this ontological shell game: What's real? What's pretend? Purportedly, this is a documentary following Phoenix's decision to quit acting and become a rapper as he goes through a drug-assisted mental breakdown. Or is it possibly an Andy Kaufman-like performance-art piece in which the actor pretended to become unhinged as a demonstration of our toxic and dehumanizing celebrity culture? On the reality side, Phoenix seems genuinely messed up and most of the movie involves a series of awkward encounters between him and people who aren't sure how to act. Evidence of fakery includes selectively blurry shots, actors cast in some roles, and Phoenix and Affleck credited as writers. Verdict? Possibly it's a whole new genre - the focumentary. L.L.