The Finest Hours

An Amazing Story Made More Amazing by the Fact That It Is a True Story

What it’s about

Set in 1952, this is the true story of where four coast guards brave a deadly storm in an effort to rescue the survivors of an oil-tanker, which has split in half, and is fast sinking.

My thoughts

This film was basically a box office flop, and critics called it old-fashioned to a fault which translates to its uses an older filmmaking style which in reality means it uses a slower style of pacing than modern films.

I have to say I agree with this opinion and because of this it is not a film I could see myself ever feeling compelled to go to the cinema to see which is likely why it flopped. As a film to watch on TV though I have to say it is a solid watch.

It is based upon the 2010 book, The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue, which was written by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman. And this book tells the true story of what happened on that fateful day back in 1952.

In terms of how true to the story the film is, extremely so. Only small scale changes have been made, for example in real life he is married to his wife when the rescue happens, whereas in the film it follows the story of him meeting her and getting engaged to her. But the courtship that is shown in the film is a largely accurate account of how they got together including the fact that she was the one to ask him to get married.

Also in the film we see the crew of the oil tanker crash the ship onto a shoal in an effort to stop it from sinking, this did not actually happen. Another minor change is that on the way home it was a lighthouse light which showed them the way home not his fiancée parking her car at the waterfront and switching on the beams.

So the changes that have been made in reality are small-scale ones which have been made mostly for the purposes of concise storytelling along with adding some dramatic effect.

All in all that means this film tells a highly accurate account of what happened and just how amazing what they did that day really was, and what they did really was amazing, I mean it has to be said the fact that they went out there, into a hurricane class storm in the boat that they did, a boat that was only designed to rescue twelve people and yet they brought back thirty-two people. It is simply staggering. The fact that they also really lost their compass when barely out of the harbour and not only did they not turn back but still managed to find the oil tanker and make it back home just makes it even more insane.

That means yes, this film’s pacing will feel at times a little bit slow especially during the periods which focus upon Bernie’s fiancé as she struggles to deal with just what it is he is doing, but the true story and the fact they stay so true to it makes this film not just a compelling watch but a most definitely worthy watch.

That means from me this film gets a big thumbs up because this is simply a story which beggars belief and is a story which deserves to be told and needs to be seen because it will prove to anyone just what lengths people will go, the sacrifices people are willing to make, just to save lives. And one thing I love more than anything is an amazing story and that’s what this is.

​​Director: Craig Gillespie

Writer: Scott Silver, Paul Tomasy, Eric Johnson

Genre: action, drama, history

Year: 2016

​Runtime: 117 minutes

The One and Only Ivan

A simple story told very well

What it’s about

The story for this film is derived from the true story of Ivan, a gorilla who for twenty-seven years lived in an American mall and never saw the light of day. It is of course a fictionalised account, the fact that you can talk probably gave that away. And that fictionalised account goes along the lines of Ivan, a gorilla, who lives in the Big Top Mall with his fellow animal acts, and a dog who as his best friend, sees his life change when a baby elephant named Ruby joins their act, and he makes a promise to her that she will see freedom.

My thoughts

This is one of those films where if you read the tagline it sounds like it is going to be one of those films which uses a real story to create a fictionalised typical Disney style straight to TV film.

Nothing wrong with that as Disney are very good at making such films, films which inevitably have that great feelgood factor to them. That is to say you know what you are getting, a grumpy person is set in their way, someone young comes in and changes everything, and they set off on a wondrous journey which after a few bumps along the way leads to a happy ending.

This film follows that MO to the T, but again that is not a bad thing and when the film starts you get the feeling that it is going to be a typical straight to TV style Disney film. Especially when the gorilla starts talking at the beginning, as good as the gorilla is it just reeks of low-budget.

And the chicken, there is a chicken, and that chicken to say the least the CGI is just terrible. They don’t even try to make it look real. But again that is just expected for what this film appears that it is going to be.

But this film is not what it appears it is going to be, it is in fact a lot more than it appears it is going to be, because to say the least if you can look past the poor CGI this film tells a simple and age-old story but it does so in a brilliant way.

Mike White derived the screenplay from a children’s book written by Katherine Applegate telling a fictionalised version of Ivan’s story and Thea Sharrock has done a great job at bringing that screenplay to life because it has to be said this is just one of those films that really pulls on the heartstrings. It will not blow your mind but that because it doesn’t want to, what this film wants to do is to leave you by the end with the feelgood factor, and it sure as heck will leave you by the end with that feelgood factor along with the feeling that it has been worth your while watching.

What that means is if you can look past the poor CGI and the fact that this is a heavily fictionalised account of Ivan’s true story (which is an amazing thing in itself), then this film is most definitely worth watching and fits the bill of an amazing story.

But like said it will only come across this way if you are willing to look beyond what it is not and see it for what it is. A very simple story told in a brilliant way.

All in all for that reason it gets a solid thumbs up from me.

​​Director: Thea Sharrock

Writer: Mike White

Genre: family, adventure, fantasy

Year: 2020

​Runtime: 95 minutes

Schindler’s List

One of the Most Remarkable Stories in History

What it’s about

Based on a true story. Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist and member of the Nazi party, tries to save his Jewish employees after witnessing the persecution of Jews in Poland.

My thoughts

Arguably no other story captures the horrors of the Holocaust and the fight to survive it better than this one. And no person who watches this film will ever see the world in the same way again. The fact it is based on a true story makes it all the more harrowing.

If you are easily upset then this is likely not a film for you, but if you want to understand just how evil man can be if given the chance and just how good man can be if given the chance and just why the world fought so hard to stop the Nazis, this film will tell you all you need to know.

In terms of the visuals, firstly this film is shot in black-and-white which is rare for a big budget modern film, but it most definitely works. Colours bring things to life but this is a story where life is hanging on by a thread which is why using black-and-white is such a powerful touch.

It really brings to life just how devoid and cold and colourless and evil the Nazi world was for a Jewish person, but it also allows that one shining hope which Oscar Schindler presented to his workforce to really shine through.

All in all this is simply a brilliant film worthy of all its accolades which include seven Oscars which means it gets a definite big thumbs up from me.

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer: Steven Zaillian

Genre: biography, drama, historical

Year: 1993

Runtime: 195 minutes

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

The Ultimate Proof That Friendship Has No Prejudice

What it’s about

Bruno is the eight-year-old son of the commandant at a concentration camp during WWII. His friendship with a Jewish boy he meets across the fence leads to unexpected consequences.

My thoughts

​This is a truly empowering story about friendship with an extraordinarily powerful message at its heart, which also captures brilliantly the horrors of the Holocaust and the madness of it without utilising any real violence. 

If you’re looking for a film that will leave you feeling happy at the end, this is not for you. But if you’re looking for a film that will change the way you see the world, then this is one of those films, because it’s a damn guarantee that after watching this you will never look at a person who thinks differently to you in the same way again.

For that reason and many more this film gets a definite thumbs up from me.

Director: Mark Herman

Writer: Mark Herman

Genre: drama, history, war

Year: 2008

Runtime: 94 minutes

Gandhi

A Brilliant Look at One of History’s Greatest Practitioners of Nonviolence

What it’s about

A lawyer, Mohandas Gandhi, returns to British India from South Africa. He begins a nationwide campaign of non-violent resistance against the British rule, pressuring Britain to liberate India.

My thoughts

Gandhi’s life was so vast and filled with so many events and narratives that trying to tell his life story in a film would simply be impossible.

But that’s why this film works, it does not try to instead it tries only to give a brief snapshot of his motivations and methods for bringing about independence, specifically focusing on his penchant for using nonviolence. 

And it does this really well, meaning if you wish to know what it was Gandhi was fighting for, how he fought for it and what it was he had to overcome to achieve his goal, this film will give you an insight into the answer while at the same time entertaining you.

Of special note is Ben Kingsley’s performance as Gandhi, which alone makes the film worth watching. All in all a great biopic drama, which is most definitely worth watching which means it gets definite thumbs up from me.

Director: Richard Attenborough

Writer: John Briley

Genre: biography, drama, historical

Year: 1982

Runtime: 170 minutes

Apollo 13

Nailbiting True Story of the Fated Mission to the Moon

What it’s about

Astronauts Lovell, Haise and Swigert of the Apollo 13 moon mission find themselves stranded when their spacecraft gets damaged. NASA must now find a way to bring them back before it is too late.

What you will learn from watching it

This film tells the true story of the fated Apollo 13 mission to the moon, one of its great selling points is the sheer level of technical authenticity there is in this film. That means unlike most films which are based on true stories, this one actually presents an accurate account of what actually happened and just how those involved overcame near insurmountable odds to bring to bring the doomed mission home.

Obviously the characters themselves despite the actors playing real people are fictionalised to an extent for the purposes of the narrative. But this does not take away from the fact that this film shows a true event in history, and in nailbiting fashion accurately portrays what it was like for those three astronauts stuck in space and the team on the ground trying to get them back down.

All in all, if you wish to understand the sheer amount of effort and ingenuity needed to get a man to the moon and back again, and just how much more effort is needed still to bring them home should something go wrong, then this film will leave you with little doubt as to the answer.

It also captures brilliantly the fickle nature of human interest in a subject, especially around the lack of interest in the follow up trips to the moon. But perhaps the greatest thing seen in this film is just how when a life is in danger people will rally round all around the world in an effort to save that life. The fact it is based on a true story and this really happened makes it all the more empowering to watch.

Is the story any good

Some films based on true stories, especially those that focus on technical authenticity end up being bore fests to any person without a deep interest in the subject.

This is not one of those films. The true story is an amazing story in itself, and this film captures that story in nailbiting fashion and presents it in a way that even people without an interest in the subject can digest.

Both director Ron Howard and screenplay writers William Broyles Jr and Al Reinert who derived the story from Jim Lovell and journalist Jeffrey Kluger’s book of the events of the fated mission deserve much credit for that fact.

Final words

If you are interested in spaceflight, and like films full of nailbiting drama, then this is definitely a film for you. And even if you are not interested in spaceflight if you like films which show the ingenuity of man in overcoming the odds then you will like this film.

That means, all in all this film gets a big thumbs up from me.

Director: Ron Howard

Writers: William Broyles Jr and Al Reinert

Genre: adventure, drama, history

Year: 1995

Runtime: 140 minutes