Out This Week: 09 April 2020 – WFH Edition

Biographical films with great insights from our own critics.

This week on our WFH Edition, we selected for you acclaimed biographical films that our critics recommends. Let’s check them out.

Che (2008)

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
With: Benicio Del Toro, Julia Ormond, Oscar Isaac, Demián Bichir, and Rodrigo Santoro

What is it about: A two-part 2008 biographical film about Argentine Marxist revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara Rather than follow a standard chronological order, the films offer an oblique series of interspersed moments along the overall timeline. Part One is titled The Argentine and focuses on the Cuban Revolution from the landing of Fidel Castro, Guevara, and other revolutionaries in Cuba to their successful toppling of Fulgencio Batista‘s dictatorship two years later. Part Two is titled Guerrilla and focuses on Guevara‘s attempt to bring revolution to Bolivia and his demise.

Heads Up: The two parts of this film were shown separately to the general public after they were shown as one in their festival run. Our own Faizan Rashid luckily watched it as one during DIFF2008, and in his ★★★★★ review, he has this words of wisdom: “If there are two sides to every story, it is almost certain that those who watch Che as two separate films will miss out on the completeness that a back-to-back watch provides. The achievement of director Soderbergh is monumental not only because of how difficult it must have been to show the same man from different angles (in victory and defeat) but also because the entire film is in Spanish and feels rigidly authentic. As far as pure, visceral cinematic experiences go, it doesn’t get better than Che“.

How to Watch it: Netflix / iTunes

Hunger (2008)

Directed by: Steve McQueen
With: Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Liam McMahon, and Stuart Graham

What is it about: Irish republican Bobby Sands leads the inmates of a Northern Irish prison in a hunger strike.

Heads Up: Another gem from DIFF2008. about a freedom fighter who would rather sacrifice his life than compromise his convictions. Not only is it Steve McQueen‘s directorial feature debut, it is also Michael Fassbinder‘s breakthrough role. The movie is without any lines of dialogue or narration, except for a jaw-dropping verbal debate between Bobby Sands and a priest in the middle of the movie. In his ★★★★★ reviewShariq Madani wrote:”Steve McQueen, the director of Hunger gives us enough time and reason to understand the character and the reason behind the protest, until eventually taking us through Sands’ harrowing journey of torture, defiance and suffering“.

How to Watch it: iTunes

The King’s Speech (2010)

Directed by: Tom Hooper
With: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, and Michael Gambon

What is it about: The story of King George VI, his impromptu ascension to the throne of the British Empire in 1936, and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch overcome his stammer.

Heads Up: If the two previous picks are too heavy for your taste, have no fear, we got you covered. This inspirational crowd-pleaser will lift your spirit. I remember seeing this one on the beach at an outdoor screening during DIFF2010 and it was an audience hit. This 4 times Oscar winner was also well-liked by our critic Faizan Rashid, who wrote in ★★★★☆ review: “the film is an inspiring, entertaining, feel good, crowd-pleaser, one that’s actually very good and sustained in no small part by two performances that enthrall“.

How to Watch it:  Netflix / iTunes

Lincoln (2012)

Directed by: Steven Spielberg
With: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Strathairn, and Tommy Lee Jones

What is it about: As the American Civil War continues to rage, America’s president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.

Heads Up: Steven Spielberg‘s historical drama about President Abraham Lincoln is a tale of political intrigue, and behind-the-scenes dramatizations of events that lead to one of the most important turning points in American history. In his 4½ stars review, Lloyd Bayer wrote:”This is one of the most important films of the year and perhaps even the times we live in. By its very making, Spielberg has written the greatest obituary for one of the greatest leaders of the modern world. Lincoln is to Steven Spielberg what Gandhi is to Richard Attenborough; the commonality being crucial moments in history, rather than a history lesson per se”. Special nod to Daniel Day-Lewis who won his third Oscar for his transcendent performance as the titular Lincoln.

How to Watch it:  Google Play / iTunes / OSN Store

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Directed by: Steve McQueen
With: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, and Brad Pitt

What is it about: In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.

Heads Up: This heart wrenching story of suffering and injustice is beautiful work of an auteur director and perhaps its McQueen‘s most acclaimed. This 3 times Oscar winner was screening during DIFF2013 (sigh!! We do miss DIFF), and our own Lloyd Bayer spoke very highly of it. In his ★★★★★ review he wrote: “To say that 12 Years a slave is a milestone achievement in filmmaking would only be half truth. It is every bit a masterpiece as much as it is essential cinema. From Sean Bobbitt’s captivating cinematography and Hans Zimmer’s moving original music, to flawless performances from an ensemble of top actors“. On a final note, this is a film you may wanna watch as a double-bill with Lincoln, for they are two faces of the same period of American history.

How to Watch it: iTunes

Jackie (2016)

Directed by: Pablo Larraín
With: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, and Billy Crudup
What is it about: Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband’s historic legacy.

Heads Up: Screened at DIFF2016, not one, but two of our esteemed critics reviewed this film. In his 4½ stars review, Faizan Rashid wrote:”This is not a film you should watch to feel good or be entertained. Don’t look for a plot either. Jackie is entirely about an event and the performance that brings this to life is an achingly raw embodiment of personal anguish“. Lloyd Bayer was even more enthusiastic about it, and in his ★★★★★ review he wrote:”It takes a few minutes to get used to Natalie Portman mimicking Jacqueline Kennedy’s voice, but once you do, it becomes hypnotic like everything else in this film. Starting with those wailing violins followed by unflattering close-up cinematography, Jackie becomes a haunting experience and ultimately a crushing story about grief“.

How to Watch it: iTunes

About Abdullah Y

Abdullah Y is based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He is an avid consumer of everything Pop Culture; movies, TV, music, photography, podcasts, and social media. He loves to travel and to share his experiences.