Beware of biopics

The cinema screen has always been an excellent source of entertainment. Hollywood does its best to put out films that will continue to attract an audience into the theater. Most people walk into a movie knowing that what they see on the screen is fictitious, and that nothing like it will ever happen in real life.


However, when people see that a film is “biographical”, they tend to expect the opposite in regards to other movies – almost everything in the film is accurate. Often, this is not true at all.


Two recent biopic films have come under heat for being inaccurate in the portrayal of the main character. These criticisms have come from people that were involved with the character at the time of the events the films cover.


“Captain Phillips” is a action thriller starring Tom Hanks as merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips, who was taken hostage by Somali pirates during the Maersk Alabama 2009 hijacking in the Indian Ocean. In the film, Capt. Phillips is portrayed as a gutsy hero who braved danger to save his crew. Many of the members of the real Capt. Phillips’ crew have spoke out and said that this is not true, at all.


They say that Capt. Richard Phillips is not a hero, and the film is misleading.


One crew member spoke with the New York Post anonymously. “Phillips wasn’t the big leader like he is in the movie.” He says that Phillips had a bad reputation prior to the highjacking and that he was known as self-righteous and surly.


Many of Phillips’ other crew members (some of whom are filing a lawsuit against the shipping company) also claim the film is inaccurate. The suits say that Phillips ignored warnings about pirates in the area and sailed too close to the coast (which he allegedly did to save time and money.)


Chief Engineer of the ship, Mike Perry, told CNN in 2010 that “We vowed we were going to take it to our graves, that we weren’t going to say anything,” “Then we hear this p.r. stuff about him giving himself up…and the whole crew’s like, ‘What?’”


The director of the film, Paul Greengrass, doesn’t claim that the film is perfectly accurate. “Movies are not journalism,” he told the Associated Press. “Movies are not history.”


The biographical drama “Jobs”, in which Ashton Kutcher portrays Apple founder Steve Jobs’ life from 1974 as a student at Reed College to the introduction of the iPod in 2001 came under fire from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.


“Woz” told CNN’s Piers Morgan that he simply didn’t like the movie. “The movie wasn’t a quality movie. I was hoping for a great movie that showed Steve Jobs, his brilliance, and how he could come up with ideas and argue with people and make decisions. Also the nasty side of him, the one that you love and hate. I wanted those emotions again, and the movie was flat.”


Wozniak told Morgan that he realises that biographical films are inherently fictional, and that it is impossible to accurately recreate the past.


However, he claims that “Jobs” completely failed in its attempt to portray actual events in Jobs’ life. “Almost every scene in the movie never happened,” says Wozniak.


I agree with Steve Wozniak that it is impossible to tell the complete truth in biographical films. Movies are movies. Hollywood makes movies to attract an audience, entertain them, and make money. I’m not saying that biographical pictures are bad and substandard. But many people going to a movie that advertises itself as being “based on a true story” will think that they just got an honest account, when in reality they didn’t.  I’m just saying that just because the term “biographical” is slapped on the poster doesn’t make it any different than the other dramas or thrillers playing in regards to accuracy.


If you’re like me, you can avoid both of these movies and just go see something that’s a little less intellectual and a bit more gut busting. I look forward to Bad Grandpa!