Thursday, August 5, 2010

Movies Based on Real Life

Lately I've had a yen for watching movies based on real life. Regular readers of my blog know that my usual Netflix choices are documentaries, so watching movies based on real life isn't really much of a stretch for me.

I hate to say it, but I've been so disappointed! In the past few weeks, I've watched "American Gangster" and "Rescuing Dawn," two movies based on real life. Well, kind of sorta, which means actually, not really.

It's kind of hard to figure out what part is the real life? For American Gangster, for instance, there was a Frank Lucas, and he was married. His testimony did help bring down a corrupt faction of the NYC police, and a few criminals. He did go to jail, and his wife (who was not a Miss Puerto Rico, by the way) did leave the continental USA (with a daughter who is never mentioned in the movie) for Puerto Rico to get help from her family to be a single mom. It doesn't mention that Frank and Julie's marriage never dissolved because of the drug conviction, or any other convictions that Lucas had afterward. That's right, Lucas didn't go straight, although the movie sure makes it seem that way. Oh, and Julie? She was recently arrested in Puerto Rico on drug charges. Why Denzel Washington ever bought Lucas a Rolls Royce, I'll never know.

And then, there is the true story of Deiter Dengler in "Rescuing Dawn." Well, true....ish. This movie strays so far from the book (Escaping From Laos) and the truth, that the (at that time) only living survivors actually made videos on YouTube to tell the truth.

The biggest divide between truth and fiction, one that is unforgivable, in my opinion, is the slandering of the name of a man, who very likely spent his dying day in a POW camp, well into the 1990's. This man is Eugene DeBruin, who was depicted in the movie as a space case, someone who folded under pressure and looked out only for himself; a sort of POW hippy. The truth was that DeBruin looked after his fellow POW's, shared his food, shared his blanket, and sacrificed his chance for freedom when a fellow POW was too sick to go on. His thanks for his humanitarianism is to spend his dying day as a POW (likely well into the 1990's, so well over 30 years) separated from his family forever, and to be portrayed as someone contemptible in a movie. Hardly fair.

My advice is to read the book, instead of watching "Rescuing Dawn." Regarding "American Gangster?" Just skip it!

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