Starting small on Day 3 with “Jockey,” an indie that premiered back at Sundance. It’s from the writer of “Transpecos,” which also starred Clifton Collins Jr.
This time Clint Bentley is on writing duty and making his feature-length debut as director. Collins is the reason to see the film; his portrayal as an aged-out horse jockey is compelling in spells, but the film as a whole drags despite its 93-minute running time.
Bentley, inspired by his own father's career as a jockey and growing up around the track, blends actors and non-actors into the film. In one scene where a real former jockey sits around with Collins' character, Jackson Silva, it slips nearly into a documentary, as they detail injuries and recoveries like an AA meeting. It’s Collins' show as he personifies the physical and psychological tolls years of training has taken on his failing body.
Supporting actor Moises Arias (“Pitch Perfect 3”) is quite good, along with Molly Parker (“Pieces of a Woman”). It’s the father-and-son theme, present in multiple films this year, that gives “Jockey' more depth.
The simple film from Sony Pictures Classics will make its way into limited theaters Wednesday, Dec. 29.
Now it’s time for the big one. Making its second appearance following Venice last week, the highly anticipated “Dune” from Canada’s own Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival,” “Sicario”) was to no surprise the most popular screening yet.
It’s important to signify that this is Part One, so audiences can manage expectations rather than exiting cinemas frustrated like they did back in 2001 with “The Fellowship of the Ring.”
Shown in IMAX format, “Dune” is based on what many call the greatest science fiction novel ever conceived. It’s an epic scale film the sucks you into its world instantly. Familiarity with Villeneuve’s work means you already expect the best of every technical element. He takes his time to let every story he directs breathe. Aided by a bombastic Hans Zimmer score that you feel in your gut, this appetizer film boasts solid performances along with technical achievements.
Scenes of Oscar nominee Timothee Chalamet trudging through the desert with sand swept hair and flowing garments on his way to a destiny he doesn’t yet understand as Paul, Duke of Atreides, feel like the “Call Me By Your Name” star has arrived at inevitable global stardom.
A beardless Jason Momoa is quite impressive since we can finally see his expressions and, of course, Rebecca Ferguson is an anchoring presence in her versatility. Villeneuve is careful to ease the audience into this world of names, races, planets and kingdoms, always making the narrative very clear.
“Dune” arrives in theaters Friday, Oct. 22.
BACK TO MONTANA
Sometimes schedules change, and Jessica Chastain’s second TIFF film “The Forgiven” was sold out virtually, in person and for press and public screenings. But at TIFF you don’t just sit around, you see something else.
“Montana Story” was making its world premiere, so that filled the spot. Haley Lu Richardson (“Split,” “Five Feet Apart”) and Owen Teague (“It”) deliver impressive performances in a film about two siblings reuniting while their cruel father lies on his deathbed.
From the team that brought us “What Maisie Knew” comes the second film set in Montana this festival, although this one is actually shot there. While it takes a minute for the narrative to get going, this modest indie corrals into stirring subject matter about forgiveness and accepting what you can’t change.
The casting team has done an extraordinary job with diversity, illuminating supporting roles that are as interesting as the lead. The film’s biggest detractor is how we don’t see more of them.
The film doesn’t have a distributor yet.
Day 3 ends with Jake Gyllenhaal’s new thriller “The Guilty,” which is a remake of the 2018 Denmark film that was submitted to the Oscars for best international consideration.
Antoine Fuqua is the director on the American version, collaborating with Gyllenhaal again following “Southpaw.” “The Guilty” is one of those one-person-on-screen, shot-in-one-room flicks, quite convenient for a movie shot during a pandemic.
The original felt, well, more original because since then we have seen this scenario of an abducted woman calling 911 play out in other films and every police show on television.
If Gyllenhaal’s performance doesn’t work, the entire film is a failure. His intensity here matches that of previous high-strung police officer roles he’s done in the past, something he might consider retiring permanently.
The biggest difference in the American remake is all the well-known actors doing voice work on the other line. Guessing who you're listening to is fun for cinephiles.
Fuqua’s films have always been about action, suspense, tension, and “The Guilty” feels like a step down from the guy who delivered “Training Day,” “The Shooter” or “The Equalizer.”
Confinement isn’t the pallet he should direct in. “The Guilty” is a nice fit for Netflix. A quick 90-minute thriller, but I say for the better use of your time, check out the original.
“The Guilty” releases Friday, Oct. 1.