Sometimes real life is the most entertaining. Biopics have proven to be an incredibly popular genre and have provided cinematic insights into the minds and lives of some of history’s greatest figures. Today, I would like to share four of my favourites with you.
- Remember the Titans (2000) – Herman Boone and the T. C. Williams Titans
Modern American history serves as a dark reminder of the state of race-relations in one of the greatest nations on Earth. Remember the Titans follows Herman Boone, an African-American athletics coach, as he takes a position at the recently desegregated T. C. Williams High School in 1971. Taking over the duties of head football coach, Boone faces trouble from the start as the white players boycott unless he has his predecessor on the coach staff. As white and African-American players frequently clash, Boone has to find a way to unite them under the banner of the Titans if they want any chance of being respected as men and as a team.
The film is an incredibly powerful reflection on race and never fails to bring a tear to my eye. The cast is wonderful, with Denzel Washington making an untouchable Herman Boone. Remember the Titans is one of the sports films you don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy immensely.
- Argo (2012) – Tony Mendez, Operation: Argo and the 1979-81 Iran hostage crisis
In 1979, a group of Iranian students stormed the US Embassy in Tehran, taking around sixty hostages and capturing the world’s attention. However, in the chaos, six embassy employees managed to escape and fled to the home of the Canadian ambassador. This would be the preamble for Ben Affleck’s Argo.
The film follows Affleck’s Tony Mendez, a CIA extraction specialist, who devises a plan to extract the six fugitives hiding with the Canadians by pretending that they are members of a production crew who are planning to shoot a film in Iran. What follows is a tense drama as they Affleck and the fugitive Americans try to pull off a fake film pre-production under the nose of the ruthless Iranian government.
While criticised for its use of liberties, Argo is a well-written, well-directed and well-acted drama that places a new spotlight on the 444 days that had the whole of America watching and praying.
- The Imitation Game (2014) – Alan Turing and the breaking of ENIGMA
How do you fight someone who you can’t predict because there encryption system is so sophisticated that you simply can’t keep up? That was the problem faced by British intelligence during the Second World War. After employing a number of highly intelligent individuals, they sought to break the German code.
The Imitation Game is film about the life of Alan Turing, especially his time at Bletchley Park as he and a team of geniuses attempted to break the German code. However, the film is also about what it means to be human and the attitudes by the world as the film cuts between Turing’s childhood, his time at Bletchley and a police interview he undertook in 1951. A story that everyone knows but no-one tells is put to film with beautiful cinematography, good pacing and a stellar cast. Benedict Cumberbatch (or some amusing manipulation of his name) is so hot right now, and for once I didn’t hate Keira Knightley!
The Imitation Game is an emotional sucker punch that conveniently wipes your mind of all you know about Alan Turing till the very end. A thought-provoking film, it is well worth your time and emotional investment.
- Concussion (2015) – Bennet Omalu and CTE in American Football
A study by Boston University found that in all of the NFL players they studied, 96% had CTE and 79% of all American Football players also suffered from it. But why did this shock the world?
Concussion takes place in 2002, as Pittsburgh mourns the loss of star player Mike Webster. However, when forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu conducts the autopsy, he finds that Webster’s death was a result of multiple blows to the head over a long period of time- a condition Omalu labels Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). This starts Omalu on a path to make the world aware of the dangers of repetitive head trauma and puts him in the crosshairs of the NFL. Omalu has just taken on, as they say in the film “a company that owns a day of the week”.
This tense sports drama is all about fighting for what is right against an organisation that will do anything to maintain its status and unbridled power. Much like Remember the Titans, you do not have to be a fan of American Football to enjoy this film.
What are some of your favourite biopics? Are there biopics of some of your favourite figures from history?