Sunday, 4 January 2015

Top 10 Best True Stories of 2014

Over the past few years, and since starting this blog, I have realised more and more just how much I love a film based on a true story. I only really cottoned on to this very recently as I noticed that The Impossible was my favourite film of 2013 and Philomena and Captain Phillips also made it into my top 10. Before that, in 2011, 127 Hours was my second favourite film of the year. I even put the 3D re-release of Titanic as my favourite film of 2012. Though Jack and Rose may be figments of James Cameron's imagination, the story of the sinking of the Titanic and the many real historical figures Cameron included in his film are a major reason that Titanic is still one of my favourite all time films. 

So with awards season really starting to heat up with the likes of The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, Unbroken, American Sniper, Selma, Foxcatcher, Mr Turner, Big Eyes, Wild, Get on Up and more vying for attention when the envelopes are opened, I thought I'd take a look back at the true stories that hit screens in 2014.

Judging by my previous love of The Impossible and 127 Hours, it seems I'm a sucker for a tragedy that has an unexpectedly positive ending. 280,000 people may have died in the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 but at least this one complete family survived! Aron Ralston may have been stuck under a rock but at least he made it out relatively 'armless! Too soon? Sorry about that.

So here it is: my top 10 films based on a true story that were released in the UK in 2014. Please click the titles if you would like to peruse my full reviews of the films.

10. Mr Turner 

A fascinating, but flawed study of one of Britain’s most interesting painters. Timothy Spall is spellbinding.

9. Jimmy's Hall

Ken Loach's story of one community in Ireland and its fight against the power, hypocrisy and repression of the Catholic church.

8. Fruitvale Station

Fruitvale Station is a sober document and howling indictment of a cruel, tragic and completely unnecessary act of murder.

7. The Railway Man

Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman star in what eventually becomes a great companion piece to Mandela with its story of imprisonment and forgiveness.

6. Dallas Buyers Club

See it for two staggering transformations and a touching true tale that desrves to be told. While Woodroof is the flawed star of the film, Leto's equally damaged Rayon threatens to steal it away from him. It may not tell the full story, choosing to focus on one frequently unpleasant man instead of many other heroes in the fight against AIDS, but Dallas Buyers Club avoids cliche to become powerful, credible and profoundly affecting.

5. The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street is Scorsese's best since Goodfellas. BUT it is also a disgrace. It makes you forget just what a complete shit Belfort really is. It is not angry enough. Belfort gets off easily. He turns on everyone around him, gets away with a tiny prison sentence in a white collar prison and is still not paying nearly enough back to his victims. To have Belfort appear in the film is just another slap in the face for the forgotten victims of the story. Scorsese has made a fun film about a man who deserves nothing but disdain. There is little caution in this 'cautionary' tale. We need to stop paying to listen to Belfort but with a film like this, Scorsese makes that very difficult.

4. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom 

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom will make you angry, make you cry and even occasionally make you laugh. It is admirable in its attempt to offer a depiction of a legend but no film can come close to the impact that Mandela really had in the world. Until somebody makes a 10 part documentary that can really dissect and explore Mandela's life, this film will enlighten those who know little of the man, remind others of his greatness and bring audiences together in their grief, their hope and their joy at having lived through the age of such an inspiring legend.

3. Lone Survivor

Even if you have little sympathy for Americans invading Afghanistan, it is still horrific and heart breaking to see what they go through. To top it all off, the end of the story shows the bravery, selflessness and incredible spirit of some ordinary Afghan villagers who help Marcus when he is the lone survivor. It is an incredible true story; powerfully acted and viscerally directed. I only hope that people will realise who the real heroes of the story are.

2. Pride

I didn't review this film at the time of its release but I absolutely loved it. This is the kind of true story that blows you away. A group of gays and lesbians in 1980s London decide that they will stand side by side with the Welsh miners who they see are being similarly victimized by Thatcher and the media. They form Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) and start raising money for the miners, whether they like it or not. I got to the end of this film (having laughed and cried) and was desperate to see if it was really all true and was astounded by how much of it is. All involved with the making of the film (including the excellent cast) should be incredibly proud!

1. 12 Years A Slave 

12 Years A Slave brings a terrible historical truth to life. It may only be the story of one man but it feels definitive; every frame is a painting that transports you to another time. Through it's cinematography, production and costume design, but most of all the performances of a completely committed cast, 12 Years A Slave depicts the ugliness of slavery with unforgettable imagery. It seems my love of a good tragedy with a vaguely positive ending is still intact.

Which true stories did you love last year and which are you excited to see this year?

More 2014 lists at I Love That Film:

Best Books I Read in 2014

TV in 2014

Top 10 Blockbusters of 2014

Top 10 Music Performances of 2014

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