It’s that time of the year again where all the big names in Hollywood go to glamorous events like the Oscars, BAFTAs, the SAG awards, and get pictured in beautiful designer dresses. However, more interestingly for us, awards season celebrates some of the best films of the year. 2015 has been particularly fantastic. Epic dramas like The Revenant (in cinemas now), and Indie-drama, Room are two of the biggest front runners for the Best Picture Academy Award, yet behind these great movies are great novels.
Book by Michael Punke (2002) ***
Film dir. by Alejandro González Iñárritu (2015) *****
The Revenant by Michael Punke is a fictional tale loosely based on the real-life experiences of expert tracker, Hugh Glass. Set in 1823, it follows the trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, who live a ruthless frontier life. What is historically accurate is Hugh Glass’ brutal attack by a bear, and that he was left for dead by two of his men. The book and film follows his quest revenge, making a captivating tale of survival, although the film does depart from the novel in places.
Although there have been complaints that the film, starring Leonardo Dicaprio, is perhaps too long, it is beautifully shot with plenty of suspense and action to break up Glass’ horrific struggle. This film is not for the faint hearted. There are some truly grotesque moments that will make you squirm in your seat, but director Alejandro González Iñárritu ensures that they are shot in a way that makes them seem realistic and organic. Dicaprio gives a great, stand-out performance as Hugh Glass, giving the film a gritty edge.
Book by Emma Donoghue (2010) ****
Film dir. by Lenny Abrahamson (2015) ****
Room follows the story of kid-napping victim, Joy (Brie Larson), and her five-year-old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay). Joy was captured at seventeen and has lived in one room ever since. To make life bearable for Jack, who was born in Room, she has convinced him that they are the only people in the world and that nothing else exists outside Room. The mother/son relationship is beautiful to read and watch. Although in the film Jack comes across as difficult, the book is written in his perspective so his behaviour is seemingly more justified. The one downfall of the book is that it’s often difficult to read as Donoghue experiments with punctuation and grammar in order to convey Jack’s voice.
Brie Larson is incredible in the film. Prepare yourself for some real tear-jerker moments thanks to her brilliant performance. The screenplay is written by the author herself, therefore it’s a well-paced, gripping movie that picks out the most effective aspects of the book. However, the second half of the film seems underdeveloped as they skim over some of Jack’s experiences. Yet overall, it’s a great story and well worth a watch and read.
Book by Andy Weir (2011) ****
Film dir. by Ridley Scott (2015) *****
One of the biggest surprises of last year was Ridley Scott’s The Martian, starring Matt Damon. Gone were the serious, brooding and dramatic space movies. Instead, The Martian was fresh, funny and feel-good. The film mainly sticks to the plot of the novel, following the story of Mark Watney, an Astronaut that is presumed dead after a huge storm interrupts the crew’s manned mission on Mars. Against all odds he has to find a way to survive on a planet that refuses to cooperate.
The novel is in the form of diary entries, documenting how Mark is staying alive. Although this can get quite dull as lots of the language is very technical, it’s still captivating as Mark is such a sarcastic, comical character. Matt Damon plays him brilliantly in the movie. However, the one problem with the film is that it glosses over some of Mark’s disasters, downplaying his struggle to survive. Despite this, the movie captures the spirit of the book and actually offers us more insight into the happenings of NASA, giving the film a real boost.