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Toronto Film Festival 2013: 10 Standout Performances

Janet Lee |
September 14, 2013 | 3:52 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Matthew McConaughey in "Dallas Buyers Club" (Focus Features).
Matthew McConaughey in "Dallas Buyers Club" (Focus Features).
As the Toronto Film Festival is beginning to wrap up, it’s time to lay out the best performances of the year on the table. Highly anticipated films such as "Gravity" and "12 Years a Slave" have undoubtedly brought various actors and actresses into the spotlight. We’ve listed the top 10 standout performances from actors and actresses who have received critical acclaim for their diverse and impressive performances. Make sure to be on the lookout for these names as awards season is right around the corner.

Matthew McConaughey

Proving his ability to carry heavy material, McConaughey has been receiving a lot of buzz for his enticing role in "Dallas Buyers Club." He plays Ron Woodruf, the legendary man during the 80s who fought the FDA and pharmaceutical industry to deliver unlicensed drugs to the AIDS community. McConaughey brings a compelling performance as a hustling homophobe who, after being tested HIV-positive, transforms into an ambitious philanthropist. Having lost almost 50 pounds, McConaughey truly invested himself physically and emotionally for this role.

Sandra Bullock

We haven’t seen her since she walked away with her Best Actress Oscar in 2010 for "The Blind Side." But she’s finally back on the big screen in Alfonso Cuaron’s highly anticipated sci-fi drama, "Gravity." Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical researcher who gets stranded in space on her first shuttle space mission and must fight to stay alive. The film has received critical acclaim for its technical and emotional achievements—the latter, being attributed to Bullock. She gives a compelling and humanizing performance fueled with depth and, well, gravity.

Hugh Jackman 

If you thought he was intense as Wolverine, you have yet to see him in "Prisoners." Jackman is angry and frightening than ever in this dramatic thriller. He plays Keller Dover, an emotionally torn father whose daughter goes missing. Growing furiously desperate to find his daughter and her kidnapper, Dover kidnaps and tortures a potential suspect. Jackman’s fury is none like we’ve seen before, capturing a man who loses touch with his soul.

 Osage County" (The Weinstein Company).
Osage County" (The Weinstein Company).
Meryl Streep 

Duh. This legendary icon gives yet another grand performance in "August: Osage County," a film adapted from the Pulitzer-Prize winning play. Audiences got a real kick out of watching the 3-time Oscar winning actress as Violet Weston, a pill-popping widow suffering with mouth cancer. Weston is the obstinate matriarch of a dysfunctional family who reunites with her children in light of her husband’s death. Streep is darkly comedic, exuding a chilling and stylistic presence with bitterness and a foul mouth.  

Chiwetel Ejiofor 

He embodies the heart and soul of the true story of Solomon Northup, a kidnapped free man who gets sold into slavery during the 1840s in Steven McQueen’s film, "12 Years A Slave." Ejiofor gives a powerful and breathtaking performance that critics say will surely be in the running towards Best Actor in the Oscars. He carries the intensity of the film with delicacy that evokes the extraordinary circumstance of Northup’s journey from freedom to slavery.

Lupita Nyong’o

It’s always exciting to see fresh talent on the big screen. This newcomer makes her debut starring alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor in "12 Years A Slave." She plays Patsey, a real-life plantation slave who suffered terrible abuse under Edwin Epps. Nyong’o gives a heartbreaking yet beautiful performance that has surely marked the beginning of a successful career for herself. 

Judi Dench

Known for her commanding presence, this distinguished actress shows off her comedic skills in "Philomena," a film based on a true story. She plays Philomena Lee, the Irish woman who was taken away to a convent when she was pregnant as a teenager and had her son taken away. After nearly 5 decades, she seeks the help of a journalist in order to find her son. As solemn as the story sounds, Dench brings a crowd-pleasing performance, infusing the film with a perfect balance of humor and emotion. 

Benedict Cumberbatch in "The Fifth Estate" (Walt Disney Studios).
Benedict Cumberbatch in "The Fifth Estate" (Walt Disney Studios).
Benedict Cumberbatch 

The Sherlock Holmes star starred in "12 Years A Slave" and "August: Osage County," both highly acclaimed films at Toronto. But Cumberbatch’s most prominent role is in "The Fifth Estate." He plays Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, who begins his mission in exposing truth to the public that ultimately leads to severe consequences. He nails Assange’s accent and captures the obsessively driven soul blinded by society’s injustice. 

Steve Coogan 

He shares great chemistry with Dench in "Philomena" as the polite but cynical Martin Sixsmith. Trying to get back into the journalism world, the former BBC journalist halfheartedly takes on a human-interest story of Philomena and helps her find her long lost son. Coogan’s sardonic performance is hilarious and fresh alongside Dench’s sweet-natured character. He provides the film with a dramatic overtone while sprinkling it with subtle charm and sarcasm that makes him another crowd pleaser. 

Bernice Bejo 

This lovely French actress moved us with her charm and vitality in the 2011 Best Picture film, "The Artist." She now strips down in a deeply emotional and complex story of family and divorce in Asghar Farhadi’s film, 'The Past'. Bejo proves her eclectic talent as an actress playing Marie Brisson, a French woman settling a divorce and seeking closure with her husband after a lingering 4-year separation. Not only must she deal with her husband’s reluctance to let go of the past, but her rebellious daughter who stirs conflict between Marie and her new fiancé. 

Reach Staff Reporter Janet Lee here; Follow her on Twitter.



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