The Pathfinder

Cool -looking Vikings and an all-round gorefest

What it’s about

A young boy, who is the lone survivor of a Viking expedition to the Americas, is raised by the Native Americans. Years later, he must defend his tribe when it is attacked by Vikings.

My thoughts

First things first, despite how it may appear in the film’s intro, to say this film is based on any form of true events is quite ridiculous. It is entirely fiction, the only real truth is the fact that yes Viking’s made it to the Americas in the year 1000.

With that out of the way, to say the least this film has some bad reviews and in all honesty it is understandable why. But that does not mean it is not a watchable film, it just means that before watching this film a number of factors need to be taken into account, specifically the problems with the film, the first problem of which is the fact that it suffers from white saviour mode. The one white guy amongst all the Native Americans is the only one that can save them, and he has to do it single-handedly.

There is nothing wrong of course with having a white guy as the hero, but the problem really is just how weak the Native Americans are depicted as. Even the greatest warriors are pretty much just just cattle to the Viking’s sword. Yes, the truth is at the time they would not really have stood much chance against the Vikings superior weaponry, but they would definitely have put up a better fight.

Then there are the Vikings themselves, they are pretty much genocidal maniacs in this film which of course in real life, despite popular belief, they very much were not. Then there is Kurt Urban’s titular character, Ghost, despite having no real combat training with his sword he seems to be a master with the sword. And he has to be considering all the Vikings he has to kill all by himself.

Then there is the fact that there is zero characterisation in this film, Moon Bloodgood plays the love interest and it has to be said she makes a titanic effort to try to make it seem that she matters and that there is love between her character and Kurt Urban’s, but she is given so little to work with that despite her great efforts there is just nothing. She exists, he exists, do they love each other, if they do we only know because they tell us as such.

And I could go on and on and on, listing all the many many problems with this film, but I am not going to. In fact I’m going to stop there and here is why, the reality is this film is simply a mediaeval gorefest with Kurt Urban fighting off super-sized genocidal Vikings – who I should add just look really cool. In fact, the wardrobe department though they get zero points for realism they get a ten out of ten for cool factor, the armour that the Vikings wear is just awesome.

Anyhow, I’m going off track. The good thing about this film is the fighting and gore, in fact this film is really just a mediaeval fight fest, and there are some great fights and cool action sequences in this film, especially the sledging down a hill using a Viking shield and the action sequence at the end which involves an avalanche.

With this in mind if you are able to watch this film as only a gorefest in which Kurt Urban brutally and single-handedly fights off really cool looking super-sized Vikings – I forgot to mention that they were giants, in fact they would probably make modern day WWE wrestlers looks small – anyhow if you are able to see this film only as that then you will probably like it. If you’re unable to do this then you probably won’t, with this in mind as a mediaeval fight fest with cool but very unrealistic Vikings it gets a thumbs up, as anything else it gets a thumbs down.

​​Director: Marcus Nispel

Writer: Laeta Kalogridis

Genre: action, adventure, historical

Year: 2007

​Runtime: 107 minutes

The Warrior Queen of Jhansi

A decent if not very basic look at a legendary Queen

What it’s about

Loosely based on true events. Freedom fighter Rani of Jhansi shifts the balance of power by leading her people into battle against the British Empire in 1857 India. Her insurrection set in motion the demise of the British East India Company.

What you will learn from watching it

​This film is done very well in regards to providing a very simplistic snapshot of the political situation in the providence of Jhansi in regards to the rule of the British East India company, it also captures very well what really went so wrong with the British East India company.

But before getting onto that, one thing is clear there is nothing in-depth about this, so this is a very very simplistic near enough back of a cigarette packet look at the situation of the time, so what caused the uprising in the mid-1800s and how the British East India company responded to it. It is also a very PG look, so this is a very light story which considering that it covers subjects like mass rape and murder, as well as a fifteen-year-old Queen marrying a much older king, may lead some to wonder whether the film does the story justice.

But on the flipside this is a film that younger people could quite easily watch, and I imagine if I had a youngest daughter this would be a great film to watch with her. And that’s because this is a story that is very much of the inspirational sort, a film which shows that even in the past there truly were women who could kick ass and inspire.

Now to how it shows quite well just what was so wrong with the leadership of the British East India Company, perhaps the best example comes when one of the shareholders proudly states that he is sixth generation shareholder. Meaning he sure as hell did not earn his role.

This is a clever piece of dialogue because in a very simple way it highlights one of the biggest problems of the British Empire, and that was how the people running it rarely earned their position and more often, in fact pretty much in every case inherited it, and the more this happened the more the Empire fell into decay and the more wrongdoings the Empire ended up committing. For example what led to the Indian uprising in the first place was a catastrophic error on the part of the British East India Company – the bullets were made using cow and pig fat, something which was sacrilege to the Indians of the time.

But like said this it is very much a back of the packet of cigarettes telling of what happened and what the situation was. But it gives that packet of cigarettes type review in a very clear and intelligible way, making it a great starting point for perhaps someone young to gain knowledge of a very inspirational historical figure, but for the adult market perhaps lacking in depth.

Is the story any good

Director Swati Bhise has created a hit and miss film, the drama and storytelling is quite good but at the same time it feels that such powerful historical figure of Rani Laxmibai deserved a more in-depth story, something that really got into the nitty-gritty of just who she was, the hurdles she had to face, and just what she had to overcome to truly become the Warrior Queen.

But like said as a PG version it works, and is a fun and inspiring story. The only real letdown is the fight scenes, firstly she slaughters British troops in a way similar to how Arnold Schwarzenegger kills the bad guys in a typical action flick.

The difference of course is whereas in Arnold’s world firstly due to his size he does look like he could do some damage, but secondly due to the type of films he stars in these types of unrealistic feats are expected.

In this film not only does it not seem believable that Devika Bhise’s Queen Rani could do the type of damage that she does, at the same time it doesn’t feel the type of film where you would expect such feats to be possible.

For example, in one scene at the end she is surrounded by British troops and my first thought was why the heck did one of the troops just shoot her, surely they would have done.

In a typical action flick you would not think such a thing because you expect such things from that type of film, the problem this film has you expect a little bit of realism but in the fight scenes it just feels like there is none and it pushes poetic licence just a little bit too far.

Really I think the problem is the director seemed to be unable to decide whether she wanted this to be a film based on realism or a fantasy version of it. So something that turns the Warrior Queen more into a mythical figure than a real figure. At times it feels like you are being asked to see this as a realistic tale, at other times it feels like you are being asked to see this as a mythical tale.

But ignoring this if you look past the fight scenes, this still tells a decent story.

Final words

If you are interested in learning a little bit about British/Indian history specifically the uprising in the mid-1800s but do not want to go in depth in your learning, this film presents a decent solution by telling the story of a person who is in effect a true real life kick ass Queen. But remember when watching this not to expect anything in depth, this is just like I say a very simple back of a cigarette packet style look at one of history’s great figures. It is also very PG which means it is great for perhaps showing to a young daughter as means of inspiration but not so great for someone wanting a more in-depth look at a legendary historical figure.

But despite that this film still gets a thumbs up from me, as it is a fun watch.

Director: Swati Bhise

Writer: Devika Bhise, Swati Bhise, Olivia Emden

Genre: historical drama, action

Year: 2019

Runtime: 104 minutes

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

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

Twelve Years a Slave

Riveting Tale about the Human Cost of Slavery

What it’s about

Based on a true story. Solomon Northup, a free African-American, is promised a fortnightly job by Brown and Hamilton. However, after arriving in Washington DC, he realises that he has been sold into slavery.

My thoughts

This film provides an excellent insight into the human cost of slavery and does very well at avoiding telling people what to think by focusing simply on telling a story and allowing the viewer to form an opinion.

It also does well at avoiding making this a story solely about skin colour, there are just people and some are bad, some are good and some are slaves, it is just in the story the slaves are black and that’s why they are slaves. 

A worthy winner of the best picture Oscar and most definitely worth watching as no person who watches this can watch it without by the end coming to the conclusion that if the world was a certain way, they could have been Solomon.

For those reasons along with the fact is a highly entertaining film it most definitely gets a thumbs up from me.

Director: Steve McQueen

Writer: John Ridley

Genre: biography, drama, historical

Year: 2013

Runtime: 134 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.

What you will learn from watching it

​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.

Is it a one hundred percent accurate portrayal, no but the main narrative which shows what Oscar Schindler did and many of the obstacles he had to face in an effort to keep his Jewish workforce alive.

Meaning what this film does is present a solid snapshot of what it would have been like for Oscar Schindler and his workforce in Nazi German, and the lengths he had to go to to keep his Jewish workforce alive.

Is the story any good

The story was derived from a Booker prize-winning novel by Thomas Keneally, entitled Schindler’s Ark which presented a fictionalised account of the true story of Oscar Schindler.

The novel was in itself completely and entirely remarkable for its brilliance in telling this true story, and in the translation to film none of this brilliance has been lost.

Director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Stevens Zaillian have combined brilliantly to bring this on to the big screen, and Liam Neeson puts in a dazzling performance as Oscar Schindler.

To say the least all in all this story is absolutely brilliant. Perhaps its greatest strength is that rather than turning it into a story of tragedy, it is a story in which there is an enormous tragedy but this is not a story of tragedy it is a story of the most human kind, where a man fights in his own way to keep alive those who a monstrous regime wishes to slaughter.

Final words

If you like dramas and stories of how one man through the choices he makes truly does have the power to make a difference then this is the film for you. The fact it is in black-and-white may put some people off, the fact it is a story of the Holocaust may but some people off, but in both cases this would be a mistake because this is truly an amazing story.

That means, without a shadow of a doubt this film gets super-sized 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.

What you will learn from watching it

​This film brilliantly captures the horrors of the Holocaust and the madness of it without utilising any real violence.

But it is not the Holocaust or the atrocities of the Nazi’s that people will take from this film, what they will take from this film is a most beautiful but also heart-wrenching reality about friendship, and that reality which is shown without a hint of preaching is that hate is learnt and friendship truly does have no prejudice.

Is the story any good

Mark Herman directed this film and adapted the story from the novel of the same name which is written by John Boyne. And what a good job he has done, the story is both beautiful, poignant and completely and entirely heart wrenching.

A rare spoiler alert, this film will break your heart but in doing so it will open your mind to a reality that is so empowering it is worth the price.

And that is the power of the story, you know what is going to happen all the way through, you may hope for a different outcome, but you know what is going to happen and yet you can’t stop watching because the friendship that is growing between the two boys on either side of the fence, a Jewish boy and the son of a Nazi commander is such a beautiful friendship.

Final words

If you love stories of the most human kind, then you will love this film. But be warned, 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 story that will change the way you see the world, then this is one of those, 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.

That means, without a shadow of a doubt this film gets monumental thumbs up from me.

Director: Mark Herman

Writer: Mark Herman

Genre: drama, history, war

Year: 2008

Runtime: 94 minutes

Twelve Years a Slave

Riveting Tale about the Human Cost of Slavery

What it’s about

Based on a true story. Solomon Northup, a free African-American, is promised a fortnightly job by Brown and Hamilton. However, after arriving in Washington DC, he realises that he has been sold into slavery.

What you will learn from watching it

This film provides an excellent insight into the human cost of slavery and does very well at avoiding telling people what to think by focusing simply on telling a story and allowing the viewer to form an opinion.

It also does well at avoiding making this a story solely about skin colour, there are just people and some are bad, some are good and some are slaves, it is just in this story the slaves are black and that’s why they are slaves.

A worthy winner of the best picture Oscar as no person who watches this can watch it without by the end coming to the conclusion that if the world was a certain way, they could have been Solomon.

Is the story any good

The story from this film is derived from the real-life memoirs of Solomon Northup, which was a bestseller back in its day in the 1850s. Despite this the book fell into relative obscurity until Louisiana University in the 1960s released a historically annotated version which thrust it back into public knowledge.

The memoirs provided an extensive account of just what it was like working as a slave in the deep South, as well as detailing Solomons experiences working on plantations. Considering this it is easy to see how this film could quite easily have turned into a history lesson that brilliantly presented what it was like for slaves in the deep South, but was boring as hell to watch.

Thankfully that does not happen as screenwriter John Ridley and director Steve McQueen have managed to find that perfect balance between focusing on the story while at the same time presenting an accurate image of the past.

What that means is this is very much a human story, and it is a human story that is told very well, so much so Solomon could have existed in any time and have been any person. And in that is the power of this story, and why it is such a brilliant one.

Final words

If you like historical dramas and are interested in learning about the slave trade, specifically what it was like for those trapped in it, then you will definitely like this film. But as this is very much a human story if you like dramas of the human kind then you will in all probability like this film, meaning this is a film which transcends its genre.

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

Director: Steve McQueen

Writer: John Ridley

Genre: biography, drama, historical

Year: 2013

Runtime: 134 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