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Gravity, 12 Years A Slave: Top 10 BFI London Film Festival 2013 picks

By and Simon Reynolds
The full lineup for the 57th BFI London Film Festival was unveiled this morning, and is being widely heralded as the fest's strongest slate in years.

As ever, several highlights from Toronto, Cannes and Venice are in the mix, with highlights including Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity, Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave and Palme d'Or winner Blue is the Warmest Colour.

There's also a slew of offerings from first-time filmmakers – among them the Daniel Radcliffe-starring Kill Your Darlings and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Don Jon, and a strong documentary slate led by Alex Gibney's The Armstrong Lie.

Digital Spy counts down the top ten films to catch at this year's festival.

10) Locke
Who's involved: Tom Hardy, Steven Knight, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott
When you can see it: October 18 - 21:20 / October 19 – 21:00 / October 20 – 21:00
Why it matters: Tom Hardy, alone in a car, for 85 minutes. This intriguingly stripped-down premise heralds an intimate and tense second feature from Hummingbird writer-director Steven Knight, which is coming off rave reviews from its world premiere in Venice.

9) The Armstrong Lie
Who's involved: Alex Gibney, Lance Armstrong
When you can see it: October 16 - 20:45 / October 17 - 14:45
Why it matters: Prolific documentarian Alex Gibney tries to get to the heart of Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France champion whose glittering career became enveloped in a doping scandal. Like all Gibney's docs, this will be compelling viewing.

8) Captain Phillips
Who's involved: Tom Hanks, Paul Greengrass, Barkhad Abdi, Catherine Keener
When you can see it: October 9 – 19:00 / October 10 – 18:15
Why it matters: Nobody knows better than Paul Greengrass how to portray real events in harrowing, meticulous detail, and the performances of Tom Hanks and newcomer Barkhad Abdi are already being widely tipped for awards consideration.


7) Don Jon
Who's involved: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore
When you can see it: October 16 - 18:00 / October 17 - 12:30 / October 20 - 20:45
Why it matters: Joseph Gordon-Levitt joins the long list of actors who've stepped behind the camera with Don Jon. He's pulling double time by directing and starring as the titular protagonist, a porn addict who's thrown for a loop when he meets Scarlett Johansson's Barbara.

6) Only Lovers Left Alive
Who's involved: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Jim Jarmusch, Mia Wasikowska
When you can see it: October 19 – 20:30 / October 20 – 15:00
Why it matters: Jarmusch's long-awaited film has already garnered critical approval at Cannes, where it was Palme d'Or nominated, and the combination of Hiddleston and Swinton feels like the kind of impeccable screen partnership that should have happened long ago.

'Only Lovers Left Alive' still

Tom Hiddleston in 'Only Lovers Left Alive'



5) Under the Skin
Who's involved: Scarlett Johansson, Jonathan Glazer, Paul Brannigan
When you can see it: October 13 - 18:00 / October 14 - 12:30
Why it matters: Much has already been written about Jonathan Glazer's Scottish-set thriller, mainly due to the casting of Scarlett Johansson as an alien in human skin who lures men to their death. But this is a femme fatale film with a difference - expect a surreal and unnerving head trip through the Highlands.

4) Kill Your Darlings
Who's involved: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Elizabeth Olsen, Michael C Hall, Ben Foster,
When you can see it: October 17 – 21:00 / October 18 – 15:00
Why it matters: The buzz has been strong on this one since its Sundance debut, with critics praising its passionate energy and darky poetic tone. It'll also be intriguing to compare Radcliffe's take on Ginsberg to that of James Franco in Howl, which played at the LFF three years ago.

3) Inside Llewyn Davis
Who's involved: The Coen brothers, Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman
When you can see it: October 15 - 19:15 / October 17 - 21:00 / October 19 - 18:15
Why it matters: The Coen Brothers step back in time to early '60s Manhattan for this tale of a young singer making her way through the Greenwich Village folk scene. Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac and Justin Timberlake head up the cast for the brothers' first film since True Grit.


2) 12 Years A Slave
Who's involved: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Steve McQueen
When you can see it: October 18 – 20:30 / October 19 – 12:00 / October 20 – 17:45
Why it matters: If early word from the festival circuit is anything to go by, McQueen's third film after Hunger and Shame sees the director once again plumbing humanity's darkest depths with an eye that's both pitiless and redemptive, while Ejiofor's performance is another dead-cert for awards attention.

1) Gravity
Who's involved: Alfonso Cuarón, Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
When you can see it: October 10 - 19:15 / October 11 - 21:00
Why it matters: It's been seven years since Alfonso Cuarón released Children of Men, so all eyes are on what's up his sleeve for this space-set thriller - starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Early festival buzz is immense, and by all accounts this is looking like a technically breathtaking film with a career-best Bullock performance.


Honourable mentions:-
Labour Day (Jason Reitman) - Kate Winslet picks up a hitchhiking Josh Brolin.
As I Lay Dying (James Franco) - Multi-hyphenate Franco takes on William Faulkner.
Nebraska (Alexander Payne) - Bruce Dern heads from Montana to Alaska
The Zero Theorem (Terry Gilliam) - Brazil director pits computers hackers against "The Management"
All Is Lost (JC Chandor) - Robert Redford gets lost at sea.
Philomena (Stephen Frears) - Steve Coogan goes in search of Judi Dench's lost son.
Saving Mr Banks (John Lee Hancock) - Tom Hanks is Walt Disney. Emma Thompson is Mary Poppins author PL Travers.
Blue is the Warmest Colour (Abdellatif Kechiche) - Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux and heavy kissing.
The Double (Richard Ayoade) - Submarine director tackles Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
Mistaken For Strangers (Tom Berninger) - On tour with rock band The National.


> Buy: Book tickets for this year's festival from September 20

The 57th BFI London Film Festival runs from October 9 - 20, 2013.

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