Heat

A film that will entertain while at the same time make you think

What it’s about

Lieutenant Hanna, a detective played by Al Pacino, decides to catch a highly intelligent seasonal criminal, played by Robert De Niro, who has vowed to pull off one last robbery before he retires for good.

What you will learn from watching it

​Heat is based on the true story of Neil McCauley and Detective Chuck Adamson from back in 1964, McCauley was a calculating criminal and was an ex-inmate of Alcatraz, Detective Chuck Adamson was the man who caught him.

What makes this film perhaps a really interesting proposition is that though poetic licence has been used to make the story more dramatic, there is a lot of truth in the account of what happened, which is rare for a Hollywood film.

For example, in the film Al Pacino who plays Chuck Adamson and Robert De Niro who plays McCauley, meet one-time for a coffee. This actually happened. The next time they meet in the film guns are drawn. This also is true, in real life the next time they met guns were drawn.

Obviously also the film is set in the 90s rather than the 60s, but ignoring that by Hollywood standards this is a fairly decent account of what went down. In terms of what in my view you can learn from watching this film, besides an interesting account of a true crime story, is the power of the bad guy.

To explain, what makes this film interesting is the fact that no person can watch it and not find themselves rooting for the bad guy. You will really want Robert De Niro’s character to get away with it and escape to his new life with his girl.

Based on what he has done, you should not want this to happen, you know you should not want this to happen, there are literally no grounds to justify his actions, and yet you most definitely do want this to happen.

The way I see this film is a perfect example of how bad guys no matter how bad they are when shown and seen in a certain light can feel like the good guys, and because of that you find yourself rooting for them.

In a way it is like the famous saying, bad guys don’t see themselves as bad guys, they see themselves as good guys, which is why at times they can seem so attractive. For example, Al Capone genuinely saw himself as a good guy, he thought he was helping people to have a good time and because of it was working in the interests of the people.

He was not a good guy, selling the alcohol illegally was one thing, but all the killing and the evil crimes he committed were another entirely. But if he told his story the way he wanted to tell it, so from his perspective, no doubt he would argue that every crime he committed was in the interests of the greater good and that he really was a good guy and no doubt he would be able to sell his argument with such strength that you might actually believe him, which at the time a lot of people did.

It is so easy to get taken in by a bad guy, in my view this film shows you just how easy and that for me makes it a great watch. The fact it is such a great film is the cherry on the cake.

Is the story any good

There are a number of angles going on in this film, on the one hand you have the breakdown of Al Pacino’s relationship with his wife, on the other hand you have Robert De Niro’s character realising he does not want to live a life alone, and so is looking for love.

Added to the cat and mouse game that De Niro and Pacino play, it has to be said this film makes for a highly compelling watch but the character that you end up rooting for is without question like said De Niro.

And that is why this is such a good story, because like said you should not be rooting for him. Yet the way the story is told makes you root for him while at the same time making you feel like you shouldn’t be rooting for him.

Final words

Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, even a young Natalie Portman, the roll call in this film to say the least is filled with some great actors. And for good reason, this is a brilliant film. It should be said that if you don’t like nitty-gritty crime dramas which are driven more by the actors rather than the effects team, then you will probably find this film boring, but if you do like nitty-gritty crime dramas which are driven by the actors rather than special effects, then you’ll most probably like this film, maybe even love it.

For that reason from me this film gets a big thumbs up.

Director: Michael Mann

Writer: Michael Mann

Genre: crime, drama, thriller

Year: 1995

Runtime: 172 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

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

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