'Parkland' and 'Captain Phillips' offer slant on events

Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips. Image: Sony.
Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips. Image: Sony.
Two new films offer different perspectives on riveting historical events.

     Parkland, starring Paul Giamatti, depicts the aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. Another film, Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks, tells the story of the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali pirates.
     Some movies about historical events do more than embellish the facts. They twist them until they break into little pieces that would be unrecognizable to the participants in those events. Movie makers counter that they are out to tell a story “based” on actual events. Fair enough, but moviegoers may leave the theaters with a false view that becomes the accepted truth.
     The question of whether filmmakers have any responsibility to “tell the truth” is a good one to raise this fall with a plethora of movies that deal with real events, including Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Fruitvale Station, Rush, Blue Caprice, The Dallas Buyers Club, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Saving Mr. Banks and The Fifth Estate.
     Those movies follow last year’s Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty and Argo.
     Paul Greengrass, the director of Captain Phillips, gives his view in a piece by Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday, who looks at the current state of fact-based films.
     “Films aren’t journalism, and they’re not history,” Greengrass says in the Post story. “But cinema can also contain some truths. It can give you an experience, it can give you a clear sense of character, it can give you a sense of the collisions of an event, it can suggest layers and depths and meanings alongside a sort of simple story that drives you on.”