By Adam Ray Palmer
There’s been a number of great biopics in the past five years, and I wanted to share with you a handful of movies that I think are must-see life stories.
To be firm though, the biopics below are categorised as a true biopic, a film about a person’s life; not an important part of a life. Now that’s said, let’s dive in!
THE DANISH GIRL (2015)
I was lucky enough to catch this film at its Venice Film Festival premiere back in 2015, just six months after Eddie Redmayne’s Oscar-winning turn as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything (just missed out on this list due to timing). This, for me, is even better from Redmayne than his Stephen portrayal. His fragile and delicate performance is equally matched in beauty and in power.
The Danish Girl is a fictitious love story inspired by the lives of Danish artists Lili Elbe (Eddie) and Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander). Lili and Gerda's marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili's ground-breaking journey as a transgender pioneer. From start to finish, it’s a tour-de-force across the acting department and a must-see ‘biopic’.
MILES AHEAD (2016)
Don Cheadle stars. Don Cheadle writes. Don Cheadle directs. Don Cheadle pretty much cleans up here in 2016’s Miles Ahead. This movie is an exploration of the life and music of Miles Davis, an American jazz trumpeter. In the midst of a prolific career, Miles Davis (Don Cheadle) disappears from public view for a period of five years in the late 1970s.
In his isolation, Dave Braden (Ewan McGregor), a music reporter, forces his way into Davis' house and the two men unwittingly embark on an adventure to recover a stolen tape recording of the musician's most recent compositions. What ensues is a raucous, flamboyant re-telling of pivotal moments in Davis’ life. Cheadle is majestic as the jazz legend, and gives you an insight into a man that prior to this movie, I didn’t know a lot about. As interesting biopics go, this is up there.
FIRST MAN (2018)
For movies that span 10 years, and spend enough time on key periods throughout is a difficult feat to pull off, but that’s exactly what Damien Chazelle (director) and Josh Singer (screenplay) did with First Man in 2018. This film is a look at the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.
Ryan Gosling can turn his hand to just about anything, and a portrayal of the most famous astronaut is just another string to his bow. His steely yet tender performance as the introverted spaceman received critical acclaim and rightly so. Armstrong, and his wife Janet (played by Claire Foy), endured a lot of heart ache in their lives and without this impressive movie, you wouldn’t have known what had made the man he was on that fateful July 20th day in 1969 on the moon. It’s an out of this world biopic (excuse the pun).
This fast-paced, warts and all biopic of Vice President Dick Cheney is a marvel. Adam McKay every now and then enjoys diving into something more serious than his usual comedy output, and with Vice in 2018, I think it is his best departure. It follows the life and story of Dick Cheney, an unassuming bureaucratic Washington insider, who quietly wielded immense power as Vice President to George W. Bush, reshaping the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today.
It’s quite frankly a frightening account of how Cheney rose from a nobody, to definitely a somebody. Christian Bale’s depiction of the political figure is startling. His weight gain, his impression and his powerful demeanour; it’s a sight to behold. Combine his performance with a slick script and some swift editing, you have on your hands a highly entertaining and informative biographical movie. Watch it.
My final biopic that you have to see from the last five years is 2019’s sensational Rocketman. To be defined as a ‘straight, run of the mill, biopic’ would be misleading, but it is certainly representative of the music legend, Elton John’s, early years as confirmed by himself. This is more of a musical fantasy about his breakthrough period of life and documents his rise (with some falls) as he became the Rocketman himself.
Taron Egerton for me deserved the same number of awards that Rami Malek picked up for his portrayal of the Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury. Egerton is superior when it comes to emotional connection, mannerisms and even the performances were recorded by Taron himself. He can count himself unlucky. Rocketman is a joy from start to finish. It’s flamboyant, thrilling, insightful and above all, stacked full with great music. I cannot recommend Rocketman enough.