“Based on True Events” — Films That Nimbly Captured the Darker Side of Real Life


Set aside profoundly excellent works of cinema that are fictional yet successful with regard to leaving one engrossed in a screen as he watches it from the edge of his seat, works of non-fiction take a different road to strike a particular chord in the heart of an audience. This is coupled with the needless disbelief that springs from the realization that such fateful, astonishing events, as featured behind a window of glass, did necessarily occur in mortal life.

While some “based-on-a-true-story” films portray serene, believable incidents that are bereft of violence and bloodshed, others—such as those that are included below—command emotion, awe, empathy, gratitude and bafflement for the sake of the astounding nature of events contained in them.

  1. Catch Me If You Can (2002)

This title may provoke humour given that it connects itself to an innocent children’s game, but Steven Spielberg’s on-screen adaptation of the real-life story of a con artist is devoid of anything close to innocence. Starring acclaimed actors Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hanks, Catch Me If You Can trails the on-the-run life of Frank Abagnale, a notoriously clever, 1960s’ con artist convicted for theft, auto larceny, fraud and forgery that won him millions of dollars, as he deftly slips through the fingers of FBI Agent Carl Hanratty while posing as a pilot, doctor and prosecutor, all before the age of nineteen.

The film also preaches the impacts of divorce and wrong influence on young children in its attractive dialogue and fast-paced, action-packed scenes.

  1. Argo (2012)

It is 1979 in post-revolutionary Iran, the United States Embassy in Tehran is stormed by an army of Iranian Islamists enraged by the States’ provision of hospitalization for the Shah, sixty-six staff members are taken hostage while six escapees conceal themselves in the house of the Canadian Ambassador of Iran with low hopes for a rescue. The responsibility of the furtive exfiltration of the six hostages falls upon a single man: an exfiltration specialist from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States.

Director, producer and actor Ben Affleck’s thrilling—yet mildly humorous—true-story motion picture boasts of qualification for each of the countless amount of awards bestowed upon it for the outstanding performance of the cast, considerably good editing and brilliant directing in paying homage to Tony Mendez’s dangerous yet undefeated attempt at saving the lives of six hostages by feigning the entire production of a science-fiction movie, “Argo.”

  1. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

Director Steve McQueen’s terrific adaptation of Solomon Northup’s 1853 memoir Twelve Years a Slave certainly grips the heart with its graphic scenes that visualize the horrifying experiences faced by the African-American community under the strict hands of slavery and deprivation of human rights.

In a period of time where “slaves” are treated lower than animals, talented violinist Solomon Northup is drugged, kidnapped and sold to a “slaveholder”, which is only the beginning of all his predicaments to come before he comes across an ounce of luck that contributes to his liberation twelve years later. The film deftly and flawlessly manages to fit the perturbing incidents Northup faces first and secondhand within a limited time frame and has amassed several awards on account of the outstanding talents of the cast and the crew.

  1. Anthropoid (2016)

The eras of the two most significant wars in the history of mankind, World War I and World War II, know no bounds pertaining to macabre and atrocity, which had made them the cause of inspiration for multiple filmmakers, and Sean Ellis’s 2016 motion picture, Anthropoid, is one of the prime examples of flawless World War II on-screen adaptations.

The film is set in Prague, Czechoslovakia, 1942, an era that was seeing suffering under the Nazi regime at its thickest. It covers the procedure of Operation Anthropoid, a mission to assassinate Hitler’s brutal third-in-command, Reinhard Heydrich. The mission is assigned to a pair of Czechoslovakians in exile, who parachute themselves to their occupied country seeking the assistance of the Czech resistance in Prague.

This heart-wrenching work of non-fiction brings out a vivid picture of sacrifice and the torment of thousands of innocents while proclaiming the patriotism of a handful of men that stood up for a valiant fight against their colossal enemy.

  1. The Pursuit of Happiness (2006)

Will Smith embodies the non-fictional character of triumphant brokerage firm owner, Chris Gardner, in Gabriele Muccino’s The Pursuit of Happiness.

The film, as the name suggests, is built around Gardner’s literal pursuit of happiness following his early life as an unsuccessful salesman, struggling with a failed marriage, single parenthood and poverty that nearly crushes him under his weight, till he takes the difficult ascension to victory and his position in life presently.

The film paved the road to Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Smith, and is inspirational to many in its realistic manner, proving that goals, indeed, are within the realm of the possibility of being achieved.

By Mischelle Rupasinghe

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