By Charlie David Page
14th May 2020

So you're stuck at home with nothing to do. What better opportunity to catch up on some must-see streaming entertainment? SWITCH is launching an article series called Lockdown and Catch Up - we're sharing our secret streaming favourites from different genres, with the entire team offering suggestions of films to keep you entertained!

Get ready for a blast from the past - the SWITCH team have compiled their favourite real-life historical films to take you through some of the biggest events from the good old days! From unforgettable political figures to journeys to space, delve into these legendary epics.










Okay, follow me on this journey - in the 2015 film 'Steve Jobs', a character spots a poster of Alan Turing and inquires who he is. Once Michael Fassbender (as Steve Jobs) answers him and includes that they won't be using him in their current campaign, the guy asks "Why?" to which Michael responds, "Because you had to ask who he was." Because of 'The Imitation Game' (and further research), I now know who Alan Turning is, and it pains me to think that there are still people out there who don't.
'Jackie' is a lens into the world and mind of Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman, 'Vox Lux') as she tries to cope with the sudden loss of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. Nobody talks about this film, and if they do, they aren't talking about it with me. Why not!? This is a stunning portrayal inside the life of America's First Lady during a time that will always be remembered in history. The performance from Portman reminds us why she is one of the best working actors on the circuit. Transcending the words spoken on the screen, she speaks volumes with her subtle and nuanced movements, honouring the icon that Jackie was, whilst digging so much deeper into her psyche. She carries herself in a way that is both tragic and majestic, mimicking the well-known facade of Jackie's hair, clothes and grace. It adds so much to the direction from Chilean Pablo Larráin ('Ema'), who knows exactly how to stage our protagonist through her ordeals, playing it all out in this non-linear dance. It's not exactly a "fun" lockdown option, but as far as historical commemorations go, this for me is up there with the best.
Set in 1844 toward the end of the Edo Period and loosely based on historical events, thirteen swordsmen set out to defeat an army and slay the Shogun's cruel, pitiless half-brother (Gorô Inagaki) in one of Takashi Miike's masterworks, his samurai movie par excellence '13 Assassins'. A remake of Eiichi Kudô's 1963 film, the Miike version features an epic climax that pits the eponymous baker's dozen (and some flaming bulls) against hundreds of opponents in an abandoned town that's been converted into a huge trap. The combatants slash and stab at each other for about 45 minutes until everyone is covered in gore and mud - it's an all-timer of a battle scene, for sure. But I love everything leading up to it, too, from the 'Seven Samurai'-style passage where they assemble the team to the moment where our fearless leader, Shinzaemon (played by the great Kôji Yakusho) accepts the suicide mission with a flush of noble conviction. When Shinzaemon unveils his intentions by unfurling a scroll in front of the troops of the evil lord and the subtitled message "Total Massacre" flashes up on the screen, the hairs on the backs of my arms never fail to bristle. Miike has directed around 103 movies and, arguably, this is his best one.
History has a way of hiding incredible people from us, and 'Hidden Figures' reveals for the first time the inspiring true story of three female African American mathematicians at NASA who helped launch the United States into space in 1960s. Everything about this movie works - the comedy, the emotion, the story and, of course, the characters. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe are a powerhouse trio, each portraying badass intelligent women who are an instant inspiration to all. The film's soundtrack, produced by Pharrell Williams, is also fantastic. In a film environment that's overblown by superheroes, 'Hidden Figures' reinvented the word hero! I love a film that makes you feel so empowered and ready to change, and this is one of the perfect examples of that kind of movie.
'Zodiac' is monolithic. It's not just a film about a moment in history, but a film about history itself, its weight and pressure and scale and unrelenting movement. It becomes a physical object you can hold in your hand, jagged and sharp yet beautiful and beguiling, an object to send men mad. All of its protagonists are caught in the furious riptide of history, including the protagonist we never see and never meet, the one who pushes everyone else in to begin with, and over nearly three hours, we watch as they either scramble to escape or become engulfed by it. By participating in history, we guarantee our existence, but does that history matter if we have influenced it for our own benefit, artificially willed a moment into being in order to be remembered? Inevitably, no matter how successful we are, it will, and must, swallow us whole. 'Zodiac' is David Fincher's magnum opus, his greatest masterpiece, a perfect piece of cinematic clockwork that still makes me gasp at its precision and humanity and ferocity. We couldn't comprehend its enormity at the time. We're still struggling to comprehend it now.
An accurate depiction of the success of this film is my willingness to sit down and watch it at the age of 11. For most children, historical success stories of a king's speech pathology would otherwise seem boring. Tom Hooper did something remarkable with this film - he showed humanity, friendship and the deteriorating effect of pressure from one's self, their peers and their family. It's a great journey and story of internal and external conflicts. This periodic piece is sublime in cinematography, wardrobe and production design. The acting is amazing, with roles delegated to Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush, and Alexandre Desplat bestows upon the film an emotionally apt score. The tension created in this masterpiece is fantastic, it really does portray the power of the spoken word and the effects of courage!
At first, a biopic about Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, doesn't exactly seem to fit director Damien Chazelle's wheelhouse - the man has way too much talent to commit himself to the clichés of the genre. As it turns out, it's exactly this talent that makes him perfect for the job, spinning Armstrong's story into a highly personal and emotional look into not only the trip to the moon, but how his life and experiences shaped him into a quiet but fiercely driven man whose want to be great bordered on the pathological. It's a testament to Chazelle as a director that he can make well-documented moments in history, such as the moon landing itself, so well-paced and packed with intensity that you'll be gripping your seat even when the outcome is already known. The standard, patriotic swelling scores you would expect to find are replaced by composer Justin Hurwitz's delicate strings that hum along with the same intricacy as Armstrong himself, played to pensive perfection by Ryan Gosling ('Blade Runner 2049'). While it may not have reached the same critical and awards success as Chazelle's previous work, 'First Man' is a carefully and respectfully crafted look at an iconic figure.
It's hard to believe that this slice of history is, in reality, still such a fresh wound. Set in Australia during the peak of the AIDS crisis, the film tells the story of Tim (Ryan Corr) and John (Craig Stott) and their 15-year relationship through high school, university, adulthood - and one of the most devastating periods for the gay community. Based on Tim Conigrave's memoir, his iconic book was respectfully handled thanks to Tommy Murphy's adaptation and Neil Armfield's loyal direction. That's supported by two marvellous lead performances, with a chemistry and authenticity between Corr and Stott that spans the duration of this story. Be prepared for a tale of the most enduring love, and the most devastating tragedy.

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Feeling up for something a little different? Make sure you check out our other articles in the Lockdown and Catch Up series below...

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