Social Commentary and Unhappy Endings

After watching ‘Deepwater Horizon’, ‘Suffragette’, and ‘A Most Wanted Man’, it got me thinking about what movies most affect us and why.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I find myself getting more emotional (whether that emotion be anger, sadness, happiness, etc) when films are either closer to reality or based on an event or historical era. And I only care about characters survival if there is a real chance that they won’t survive.

With ‘Deepwater Horizon’, as I discussed in my review, it was being reminded of the deaths of the men and the environmental catastrophe caused by human arrogance. In ‘Suffragette’ it was the struggle of those women who protested for decades and were either ignored, beaten, force-fed during hunger strikes or incarcerated.

Emmeline Pankhurst being arrested. 

Finally, it took the death of one brave woman to actually instigate any change. At the end of the film the year women were given the vote was displayed by country; it was shocking to see countries that we perceived as progressive had not given the vote until the later 20th century. And still some countries had not given women the right to vote. Of course, being female and an advocate of a more egalitarian society, this film really hit me on an emotional level.

Then this evening I watched ‘A Most Wanted Man’, starring the late and great Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the leader of an anti-terror group operating in Hamburg. Hoffman and his group are tracking terror suspects with the hope of infiltrating a shipping company operating as an Al-Qaeda front. Rather than letting the group do their job and finding the Shark as Hoffman put it, the American and German governments decided that arresting an innocent man and the money man was a better idea. This is something many governments and other institutions do, they look for a quick fix, something to parade in front of the news channels rather than correcting the issue at the source. That’s too much effort. It also displays the automatic prejudice against refugees and Muslims because of the actions of the minority.

I couldn’t stop the tears. 

And it made me think of other films I’ve seen that have depressing context or unhappy endings; Titanic, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, The Magdalene Sisters, Remember the Titans, 12 Years a Slave, Marley and Me, United 93, Open Water, Jarhead (yes, based on memoirs), The Pursuit of Happyness (true story), The Help, Everest, and Schindler’s List (so I’m told). All these films are based on true stories and events. For more films based on true events see List of films based on actual events (the horror films on the list will surprise you.

Some people like the escapism in films, many other people complain that there is no suspense in Hollywood anymore; if the ending of a film is sad or not properly concluded then there will likely be a sequel. To those people I say watch some films based on reality; either based on true events like ‘Suffragette’ and ‘Deepwater Horizon’, or those commenting on the worst aspects of our society like ‘A Most Wanted Man’. But a warning, these films are normally very shocking and often leave you feeling hopeless, the horrific events caused by humans and the attitude of people is sometimes difficult to fathom.

In reality is where we find the most horrifying stories, whether true or not, they affect us greater than fiction because it is more real.


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