Film / People

4 Recent(ish) Movies Based On Real Olympians

rio olympicsThe Rio Games are now in full swing, hurrah! But if you’re chosen team start to flag or you see one too many horrific accidents, you can always opt for some Olympic entertainment that’s a little more softened by the lens of Hollywood.

Here are four films about Olympians that will be sure to distract you from the real thing happening in Rio:

Eddie the Eagle [2016]

Eddie-the-Eagle-Movie-Poster-Taron-EgertonIf you’ve grown a little sick and tired of all the Summer Games and are eagerly looking forward to Pyeongchang’s Winter Olympics; then here’s a film that should get you excited for some action on the slopes. Before you start it up, turn down the heating and invest in a bobble hat to really get into the spirit of things. Once you’ve got your hot chocolate/eggnog nice and hot, get ready for your heart to be equally warmed.

With two self-assured leading men and experienced British Actor/Director Dexter Fletcher at the helm, this is a movie that knows exactly what strings to tug and when. It’s bright colours and upbeat soundtrack gift it with an infectious lust for life that is hard to resist. Veteran nice guy Hugh Jackman is on good form here alongside Kingsman’s breakout star Taron Egerton. Just don’t forget that its summer outside, after getting thoroughly immersed in this Wintery wonder!

Foxcatcher [2015]

Foxcatcher-BannerBennett Miller’s third feature is almost as cold to the touch, with large swathes of the action taking place on multi-millionaire John du Pont’s frosty Philadelphia ranch. Infinitely less chipper and much more brooding, Foxcatcher takes its name from du Pont’s Wrestling team who buys the services of Olympic Wrestling Champions Dave and Mark Schultz. What starts out as a simple story of hopeful Olympians turns into a power struggle between the competing coaches.

Channing Tatum’s performance as wayward wrestling contender Mark is an unflinching look at the pressures of competitive sports. Although the film seems simple from the outset, the warring emotions and motives of the central three characters soon send the film flying into a complex conclusion that is as shocking as it is true. For a chilling look at the sometimes futile hunt for a gold medal, you could do a lot worse than Foxcatcher.

Unbroken [2014]

Unbroken-630x354The story of Louis Zamperini’s gruelling 47 days surviving on a raft in the middle of the ocean should be enough story for one movie. However, his story was tragically, much more than that. Having qualified and competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, he is enlisted to the war effort and his bomber is shot down in 1943. After being rescued by the enemy he is sent to a gruelling POW camp where he is embroiled in an antagonistic relationship with the leading officer there.

Angeline Jolie’s third feature film hits all the notes of the prestige-pic, perhaps a little bit too well. Alexandre Desplat, hot on the heels of writing great scores for The Grand Budapest Hotel and Harry Potter, delivers classy music whilst the mostly young cast of newcomers respond to the subject matter with ease. Although a little clichéd in places, Unbroken gets enough right to orchestrate some inspirational moments – more than enough to recommend it.

Race [2016]

RaceAnother true story born out of the tumultuous Berlin Olympics, it’s a surprise that it hadn’t already been turned into a biopic. With a decent supporting cast featuring Jeremy Irons, William Hurt and a surprisingly restrained Jason Sudeikis; the inspirational tale of Jesse Owens’ battle against adversity failed to find an audience commercially. However, Race tends to succeed in more parts than it fails.

Newcomer Stephan James came in to replace a Star Wars-bound John Boyega for this biopic and does an admirable job of portraying the legendary athlete. Meanwhile, Stephen Hopkins ably directs the feature; he’s done well to distance himself from a couple of 90s stinkers and commands this diverse cast with real panache. When you get to the finish line, the pay-off feels just about worth it although Rachel Portman’s cloying soundtrack threatens to derail the whole show.…

Film

Embrace of the Serpent [2015]

serpent1A stunning Homeric, colonial Drama with more than just a dash of the fantastical. Embrace of the Serpent is more than you’re average Foreign Film Academy nominee.

Missing out on this intriguing movie on its limited UK release, I jumped at the opportunity to take a peek when it came on to disc. Although I’d heard that the Black and White jungle visuals and atmospheric sounds were best experienced in theatres, I felt that my TV and speakers were more than up to the task.

Embrace of the Serpent garnered critical acclaim upon its release for its sensitive approach to a rich tapestry of themes. Indeed, those looking for subtext to pull at here will not be disappointed. Everything from PTSD to Environmental issues gets explored, with plenty of time for tangential explorations of religion and issues of Colonialism.

serpent2On to the narrative, easily one of the best things this film has going for it. Unlike some other Foreign Language Cannes winners, Embrace keeps its dual narrative tight and well defined. Setting the action around Karamakate, the lone survivor of a Tribe decimated by Rubber Barons – the film is divided between two quests with the same goal, but set decades apart.

In 1909, a young Karamakate reluctantly aids a sickly German scientist to find the legendary Ykruna plant in order to save his life. Over thirty years later, an American on a similar journey enlists an older Karamakate’s help. The two narratives are cunningly intertwined, with attention paid to the causality inherent in introducing a foreign element to native tribes.

Performances from the small cast are uniformly good. Unlike its outward appearance, Embrace has more than a few moments of levity. Both the young and old Karamakate are allowed the chance to laugh, and the foreign men of science who use him always appear than more than just the ‘white-devil’ cardboard cut-outs that you’d expect.

serpent3Although Ciro Guerra shoots in Black and White, the moral grey area that he explores with his characters defy expectations. Although the various tribes we meet have clearly been negatively impacted by their foreign invaders, they never come across as the naive Adams that we’re led to believe they were.

In many ways, Embrace is an incredibly human film. Looking past its gorgeous cinematography and rich subtext, Ciro Guerra and his co-writer’s real achievement here is the scope of human existence that they capture. Whether living as a pack, as brothers or simply alone – their characters are always driven by a singular goal which drives the meditative narrative ever forward.