Archive for the ‘Based on a True Story’ Category

12 Years a Slave

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

9a47a59700a0e927cd773bf6d10c509b12 Years a Slave is an award-winning emotional roller coaster, which sees a free man become a slave in the deep south of the United States.

Set in 1841 and living in New York with his wife and two children, making a living as a violist, Solomon Northup thinks he is about to play an out of town gig, only to be drugged and sold into slavery. Through bravery and co-operation, Solomon fights for survival but that doesn’t always get him in the good books of his master. After meeting a Canadian by chance, Solomon’s chances of reuniting with his family hang in the balance.

After bagging numerous awards at the Oscars, Golden Globes and BAFTA Awards, you may be curious as to why this film has become a massive hit.

Firstly, the film touches on history that some people try to avoid, because of how sensitive the subject matter is. However, Director Steve McQueen took on the challenge to highlight the past’s most horrendous history and has turned it into a masterpiece.

12 Years a Slave will tug at even the tightest of heart strings, with some scenes proving very difficult to watch.


127 Hours – Between a rock and a hard place

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

127hours-posterIn 2003, American mountain climber Aaron Ralston was hiking Blue John Canyon in Utah when he fell, and a dislodged boulder pinned his right arm to a rock wall.  The feat of human endurance that followed quite seriously deserved the movie treatment, if only to highlight the incredible resilience, determination and willpower that one man can possess.

Aaron Ralston spent an astonishing amount of time stuck in a standing position, unable to free himself, slowly sipping his bottle of water at around 150ml a day, and eventually choosing to consume his own urine in order to prolong his survival.  The majority that have heard of the story of Aaron Ralston and 127 Hours also knew that in order to escape his seemingly inescapable situation, the adventurer fashioned a tournequet, snapped his arm and then cut it off below the elbow using a poor quality multi-tool.  This may sound grisly, but the fact the he managed to survive this ordeal, and then hiked several miles afterwards, losing around a quarter of his blood, should actually serve as an inspiration to us all.

In the wrong hands, the big screen version could simply be a cack-handed build-up to the inevitable grotesque scene that everyone is waiting to see.

So it’s a good job the world has Danny Boyle.

It’s impossible to overstate this director’s abilities as a filmmaker; he is different class, and his innovative style and genius craftmanship, both as an original storyteller and a technical maestro, are rightly being held in the highest regard, and his reputation is growing exponentially with each movie he makes; his résumé which lists Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Slumdog Millionaire, to name but a few, is undeniably impressive.

Enough Boyle worship, 127 Hours is quite literally a faultless film; it stays close to the truth of its immense source material, the pacing is perfect, the scope of the scenery emphasises the man’s sapping solitude and the performance of James Franco (Pineapple Express, Spiderman) as Aaron is as good a piece of acting as you will see this year.

Franco’s irrespressibly upbeat performance in the first fifteen minutes truly characterises a man focused on freedom and exploration; a real adventurer so determined to do things by himself that he doesn’t so much as leave a note to say where he is going.  We don’t know Aaron, but Franco makes us believe we do, and it’s hard to think anyone could have done a better job of bringing Aaron Ralston to the screen and making us care so sincerely about his fate.


Unstoppable – A train wreck?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

unstoppable-true-storyLoosely based on actual events, Unstoppable sees an unmanned train on the rampage with some 40-plus carriages, two of which are carrying molten phenol. It leaves Stanley Rail Yard in Walbridge, Ohio to begin a 66-mile journey of total destruction…

That morning, 28-year-old rail veteran Frank (Denzel Washington) is paired up with young rookie Will (Chris Pine) for a training day.  Tensions are high, as Frank is being forced to retire so that younger guys like Will can come in and take over the work.

Soon enough, and somewhat predictably, they have to join forces to face not only a runaway train, but also a company that seems to care more about protecting the cargo than the lives threatened by the charging locomotive.

Reaching speeds of over 50mph, the menacing missile tears through Northern Ohio for two tense and terrifying hours (well, at least they are supposed to be tense and terrifying).  With attempts to slow the train failing, Will and Frank decide to try and hook up their train to the speeding disaster zone, in order to slow it down before it’s too late.  Can the train be stopped before a tragic catastrophe claims the lives of innocent civilians?


Thirst – a Korean film with bite

Thursday, April 1st, 2010


Vampires are everywhere in mainstream cinema these days. Once upon a time they were relegated to the catacombs of Hammer Horror land, but they’ve since spread from the vaults to nearly all corners of the world.

The vampire movie is no longer a subsidiary of horror cinema; it is now a genre unto itself, with countless subdivisions appealing to a wide demographic including those uninterested in pointy canines.

Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight novels, and their subsequent cinematic counterparts, have developed vampirism for the emo generation, heavily romanticising the characters whilst holding back on any neck-biting that doesn’t take place in the bedroom.

From Dusk Till Dawn and Near Dark developed the idea of road-movie bloodsucking, and Blade gave us the futuristic, sword-wielding vampire that fights on our side as he tries to battle his own bloodlust.

Recent Ethan Hawke vehicle Daybreakers has a crack at the vampire-apocalypse; a world populated by vampires, where the number of humans, and therefore the supply of blood, is drastically dwindling. The new rulers of the world find themselves in a desperate search for a blood substitute.

As vampire films are produced at a bloodcurdling rate, filmmakers are constantly searching for innovative ways to tell an interesting and exciting new story that is not just a retread of old ground/flight paths.

With his first taste of Western financing, Park Chan-wook has tried his hand at the task.  Those familiar with Park Chan-wook will have seen his critically acclaimed ‘revenge’ trilogy, which includes the brilliant and brutal Oldboy. His most recent effort is similar in its blunt exploration of love and violence; the twisting and contorting lives lead by everyday people who find themselves faced with intense questions of morality.



Monday, October 19th, 2009

sandra-laingThis sensitive drama from Anthony Fabian tells the remarkable true story of Sandra Laing, a black girl who was born to white Afrikaner parents in 1950’s South Africa. Due to a genetic throwback, Sandra’s hair is frizzier than that of her parents, and her skin darker. As her conservative father seeks to defend her mother from persistent accusations of infidelity, Sandra becomes embroiled in a series of legal battles to classify her race. Amazingly, The Laings’ campaign is successful and the dark-skinned Sarah is officially classified as white. She is legally entitled to attend a “white” school, sit in the “white” section in waiting rooms and dine in “white” restaurants. Her parents blankly ignore the stares from racist onlookers, and their policy of “reclassifying” their daughter appears to work, for a while.


Star-studded epic marks 60 years of communism in China

Friday, September 18th, 2009

maoThe Founding of a Republic, a star-studded epic which marks the 60th Anniversary of China’s Communist revolution, opens in UK cinemas on Thursday.

The film, which tells the story of the communist rise to power in 1949 from Chairman Mao’s days as a young soldier, was made by the state-run China Film Group, and stars over 100 of the country’s best-known actors, including Hong Kong king-fu heros Jackie Chan and Jet Li, as well as Crouching Tiger actress Zhang Ziyi.

The film’s producers hope that the cast list and subject matter will attract both older viewers and the internet-savvy younger generation, with the film tipped to be one of the highest-grossing films the country has seen for years.



Thursday, August 20th, 2009

capoteOn 16th November, 1859, the flamboyant American author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote, reads an article about four members of a well-respected Kansas family who were brutally murdered one night. The notion of two very different worlds colliding – the protective unit of Clutter family and the rootless, amoral sphere inhabited by their killers – enthralls him, and Capote phones up William Shawn, editor of the New Yorker, to ask if he would be interested in a magazine article examining the effect of the murders on the local community. Shawn gives him the nod of approval and Capote leaves for the wind-swept plains of the Mid-West along with his childhood friend Harper Lee.

Speaking to an agent from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Capote admits that he is not bothered whether the murderers are caught or not – he is satisfied that the subject matter will play to his ambitions of producing writing that combines the emotional intensity of fiction with the raw urgency of hard facts. But when two young vagabonds, Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, are arrested and charged with the crime, Capote realises their stories could bring him the wealth and acclaim he so craves. Six years later he would publish In Cold Blood, a “nonfiction novel” that made him the most famous writer in America, a millionaire, and destroyed him from the core.


The Wind That Shakes the Barley

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

the-wind-that-shakes-the-barleyLanding director Ken Loach a Palme D’Or at the 2006 Cannes film festival, The Wind That Shakes the Barley charts the IRA’s attempts to oust the British in the early 1920s and the civil war that followed the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922.

The film opens in 1920 as newly-qualified doctor Damien O’Donovan (Cillian Murphey) abandons his plans to find work in a London hospital after he witnesses the brutal murder of his childhood friend by British Black and Tan troops. Along with his brother Teddy (Pádraic Delaney), Damian joins a “flying column” of the embryonic IRA, which exploits its superior knowledge of the Irish countryside to take pot shots at unsuspecting British troops. As the brothers’ zeal increases, so do their acts of violence, which include the shooting of unarmed British landlords and childhood friends who have aligned themselves with the occupying nation.


The Wave (Die Welle)

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

welleBased on a real-life incident at a California high school in 1967, Dennis Gansel’s cautionary thriller takes a disturbing look at fascism’s ongoing appeal.

Set in an affluent German town, The Wave sees hip schoolteacher Rainer Wenger tackle the subject of ‘autocracy’ for a school project week by creating his own mini-dictatorship in the classroom. He sets himself up as commander-in-chief with his pupils assuming the role of dedicated followers. Initially sceptical, the teenagers soon embrace the idea enthusiastically, choosing a uniform for the group, giving it a name (The Wave), designing a logo which they later spray-paint all over town, and greeting each other with a secret handshake. By working together they establish new friendships, become more creative and achieve more academically.



Monday, June 15th, 2009

valkyrieValkyrie is an old-fashioned espionage thriller based on a large-scale plot within the Nazi ranks to assassinate Hitler. It’s one of those ‘what if’ tales which, had it succeeded, might have completely changed the fate of Europe.

At the centre of the conspiracy is Claus von Stauffenberg, played by Tom Cruise, a one-eyed German officer whose bravery has earned him priceless access to Hitler’s bunker. Unknown to the higher echelons of Hitler’s army, however, von Stauffenberg has despised the Führer for years. In 1943 he joins a cabal of equally disenchanted officers who plan to topple the Third Reich and recapture their beloved Vaterland.