This story first appeared in the Sept. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
1. The Martian
Ridley Scott‘s latest trip to space, starring Matt Damon as an astronaut abandoned on the red planet, has everyone wondering. It’s based on a clever book, the trailer looks promising, and (at a $108 million budget) it’s by far the costliest film at the festival. But can it break Sir Ridley’s underwhelming run of recent big-budget, CGI-heavy disappointments, including Prometheus and Exodus: Gods and Kings?
This one may emerge as a worthy entry in the crusading-journalist genre, in which co-star Robert Redford set a benchmark with All the President’s Men nearly 40 years ago. And the prospect of seeing Redford as CBS Evening News stalwart Dan Rather and Cate Blanchett as a producer battling the Bush administration over George W.‘s nonservice in Vietnam is tempting. Debuting director James Vanderbilt was the screenwriter of Zodiac (but also White House Down).
3. Bolshoi Babylon
This is just one of many intriguing documentaries in the lineup, but it sounds sufficiently different from the many socially conscious entries to provoke special curiosity. Director Nick Read had been given unprecedented access to record a behind-the-scenes look at the prestigious Russian ballet’s 2013-14 season but ended up witnessing extraordinary discord — culminating in the shocking acid attack on company director Sergei Filin.
4. Our Brand Is Crisis
Few directors are as downright confounding in their choices of material and execution as David Gordon Green, but the combination of story (Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton play rival political consultants for Bolivian presidential candidates) and screenwriter (Peter Straughan, of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Wolf Hall) is sufficiently intriguing to warrant attention.
5. Land of Mine
Directed by Martin Zandvliet, this Danish World War II drama has stimulated strong early word, and the premise would seem to offer an ideal opportunity for sustained suspense: After the war is over, several German POWs in Denmark are obliged to dig up and defuse Nazi mines planted on the Danish west coast. Just the thought of it produces immediate tension.