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7 Must-See Movies At This Year’s BFI London Film Festival

heDD Team September 20, 2015 Film Comments Off on 7 Must-See Movies At This Year’s BFI London Film Festival
Tickets are now on sale for the 59th BFI London Film Festival with a host of great movies on show throughout. This year has been dubbed ‘The Year of the Strong Woman’ due to the rich diversity of films containing a female-centric narrative. From thrillers to war movies, comedy films and biopics, the festival has something for everyone, we’ve picked out some films you absolutely won’t want to miss.STEVE JOBS

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With direction from Slum Dog Danny Boyle, Aaron Sorkin’s incisive screenplay, and Michael Fassbender’s scorching performance, this film demonstrates cinema at its most dynamic and transportive.Working from Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography about the Apple icon and employing a wholly innovative narrative structure built around three seminal product launches – the Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT Cube in 1988, and the iMac in 1998 – Boyle’s film is the enthralling story of the iconoclast at the epicentre of the digital revolution. Sorkin (The Social Network, Moneyball) delivers both a fresh portrait of Steve Jobs, and a penetrating look at what it takes to create change – in Jobs’ case, change so ground-breaking it would revolutionise how we communicate with one another. These product launches are the high-stakes settings that illuminate Jobs’ world – through rapid-fire dialogue and spur-of-the-moment decision making, with his perfect foil: marketing chief of Macintosh, Joanna Hoffman, played by Kate Winslet.The furious pace, switching between public and personal spheres, also works as a constant reminder of the competing demands on Jobs’ world, and the impact these have on his interactions with fellow Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), and Jobs’ ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston). Fassbender’s intelligence and kinetic energy magnify the brilliance of the man and highlight his foibles and insecurities, while Winslet, not only matches Jobs’ pace but challenges him in the ways no one else will or can.

Boyle returns to close the Festival for the third time – following Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and 127 Hours (2010) – with a film that is as breathtaking and daring in its form as it is brilliant and thrilling in its portrayal of one of the most transformative figures of our times. Put the pathetic “JOBS” starring Ashton Kutcher out of your mind, this film is in an entirely different league.


black-mass-johnny-deppWith its gritty and absorbing depiction of vice and corruption in Boston, Scott Cooper’s chilling crime drama joins the esteemed ranks of The Departed and legendary TV series The Wire. Adapted from Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill’s acclaimed book, it charts the rise of one of America’s most notorious mobsters. FBI Agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) persuades his superiors to let him approach Irish gangster Jimmy ‘Whitey’ Bulger (Johnny Depp) to become an informant for the FBI. Connolly reaches Jimmy via his brother, Billy Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch), a political rising star on the fast track to becoming State Senator. The goal is to eliminate their common enemy – the Italian mob. However, Connolly, who draws on a misguided sense of South Boston loyalty, holds none of the power.Initially oblivious to the fact that the alliance he builds is protecting Whitey and allowing him to consolidate his powerbase, Connolly soon realises that if he exposes him, he will cast suspicion on his own actions. Cooper, who has already proved himself a superb director of actors, extracts gripping performances from the stellar ensemble cast, with Depp almost unrecognisable as the brutal, ruthless gangster and Edgerton unnerving as the FBI agent who gets in too deep.ELSTREE 1976

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2015 will be remembered as a Star Wars year, with the long-awaited latest instalment set to be the biggest cinema release, possibly EVER. When George Lucas began working on Star Wars in North London back in 1976, no one could have predicted how it would go on to shape cinema as we now know it, least of all, the legions of on-screen extras.In this affectionate documentary, we meet ten of those bit-part performers who appeared, fleetingly, in Lucas’ box office behemoth. But instead of a standard ‘making of’, Elstree 1976 paints an intimate portrait of these little-known performers, examining how their brushes with Lucas shaped the paths of their lives. With a cast ranging from David Prowse, more popularly known as Darth Vader, to a performer whose character was cut entirely from a finished episode, this film is not so much about Star Wars as the story of a group of people united by a life-changing experience.MY SCIENTOLOGY MOVIE


‘I find that the most shocking behaviour is motivated by very relatable human impulses,’ comments Louis Theroux as he heads to Los Angeles for his feature documentary in collaboration with director John Dower exploring the Church of Scientology. Following a long fascination with the religion and with much experience in dealing with eccentric, unpalatable and unexpected human behaviour, the beguilingly unassuming Theroux won’t take no for an answer when his request to enter the Church’s headquarters is turned down.

Inspired by the Church’s use of filming techniques, and aided by ex-members of the organisation, Theroux uses actors to replay some incidents people experienced as members to better understand the way it operates. In a bizarre twist, it becomes clear that the Church is also making a film about Louis Theroux. Suffused with a good dose of humour and moments worthy of a Hollywood script, My Scientology Movie is stranger than fiction.


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The Best Director winner at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Hou Hsiao-Hsien is the subject of a major retrospective – Also Like Life – at BFI Southbank this month, ahead of LFF’s UK premiere of his mesmerising first foray into martial arts. Breathtakingly elegant and ravishing in its composition, The Assassin is set in 9th-century China towards the end of the Tang dynasty. Lethal assassin Nie Yinniang, played by the incandescent Shu Qi, star of Hou’s Three Times and Millennium Mambo, fails an important assignment and is sent back to her homeland on the orders of the nun who abducted her as a child and trained her in the deadly arts. Her new orders, designed to both punish her and eliminate the last vestiges of feeling in her being, are to kill the man to whom she was once betrothed – her cousin, the powerful governor of Weibo, played by Chang Chen (Three Times, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

However, Yinniang’s emotions lead her to defy her Mistress and discover a new, unexpected source of strength. Her journey is mirrored by the film’s transition from crisp, high-contrast black-and-white Academy ratio in the prelude, to glorious, expressive colour and 1.85:1 ratio when she arrives in Weibo. In a quietly audacious move for a genre that often uses brisk editing to match the action, Hou’s regular cinematographer Mark Lee Ping Bing holds exquisitely framed wide shots, with kinetic flashes used sparingly in the brilliant action sequences.


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Jerzy Skolimowski’s ‘catastrophic thriller’ focuses on 11 scintillating minutes in the lives of a variety of characters, each of whom is following a different path – some routine, many of them life-changing, all pulse-pounding. A sexually predatory film director auditions an actress. An ambulance rushes a pregnant woman to hospital. And a motorcycle courier shifts into high gear in order to escape detection by a suspicious husband. Meanwhile, an old man sketches a bridge over a river, a street vendor sells hot dogs to nuns, and a dog does what dogs do, although this time we are watching the world from the pooch’s POV. The stories overlap, but not in the way you might expect.The charismatic Skolimowski (Moonlighting, Four Nights with Anna, Essential Killing) has always been one to push boundaries, and in 11 Minutes he focuses his adventurous spirit on the issue of film chronology, wringing as much excitement, intrigue, motion and emotion as he can from of the film’s brief but constantly re-visited timeframe. Ably assisted by striking sound design and Mikolaj Lebkowski’s inventive cinematography, Skolimowski racks up the suspense offering the odd clue as to how it all turns out. You’ll be holding on tight as you follow race towards the end.MONSTER WITH A THOUSAND HEADS


Since his corrosive debut, The Zone (LFF2007), Mexican-Uruguayan director Rodrigo Plá has proven himself one of Latin America’s most original political filmmakers. His latest feature, another collaboration with his regular screenwriter Laura Santullo, is an adaptation of her 2013 novel, a taut conspiracy thriller exploring the human cost of institutional corruption. Forty-something Sonia is grappling with the trauma of watching her husband die of cancer. The medical insurance company who is handling his treatment will not answer her calls or help her secure the treatment he is entitled to. Reaching breaking point, she decides to take matters into her own hands. Rooted in a poignant central performance by Jana Raluy, A Monster with a Thousand Heads blends noir-ish tones with a timely plot line; the result is a tense, muscular film capturing the excesses and extremes of corporate greed.


As well as our top picks, there is a seriously rich slate of films on show throughout the BFI London Film Festival, so check them out and don’t miss out. To see the full list of what’s on show and to book your tickets, head here:

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