The Face Of An Angel and the five best movies inspired by real life court cases
The Face Of An Angel, the new thriller from British director Michael Winterbottom, is not your typical thriller. Starring Rush mainman Daniel Brühl, Underworld leading lady Kate Beckinsale and future Paper Towns’ star Cara Delevingne, the movie is a complex one.
Though inspired by the tragic murder of British student Meredith Kercher, who was killed while on a year’s exchange in the Italian city of Sienna and the ensuing media circus that built around the case after the arrest and subsequent trial of Kercher’s friend Amanda Knox, her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito and their friend Rudy Guede, it’s not about the case. This isn’t a true-life retelling or a biopic, Brühll, Beckinsale, Delevingne and all the other key players are fictional characters.
It stars Brühl as Thomas, a struggling documentary filmmaker who is tasked with writing a compelling movie about the trial. He heads to Sienna to meet Simone Ford (Beckinsale), a journalist who has written several books about the story and who is still actively covering the case. While working, he also meets Melanie (Delevingne), a young student who says she can also help him with the case and the two quickly become involved.
Juggling his relationships with both men and trying to get inside the case sends Thomas a full on emotional rollercoaster, both personally and professionally. Will he help solve the case? Will he get his movie right? And will his personal life come out in anything other than total tatters?
In celebration of The Face Of An Angel’s release, we thought we’d dig through the racks and bring out five other films that take their cue from real life court cases….
Released in 2006 and directed by Brian DePalma, the man behind the camera on iconic gangster flicks like Scarface and The Untouchables, The Black Dahlia was his look at the investigation of actress Elizabeth Short.
Short was an aspiring actress who was brutally murdered in 1947 in Los Angeles and her case has become known as one of the most famous unsolved murders in US history.
In DePalma’s movie, Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart play Dwight 'Bucky' Bleichert and Lee Blanchard, two hungry LAPD detectives who both quickly become obsessed with the case and watch it drive their professional and personal lives into the ground.
Slick, stylish and beautifully shot, this isn’t one of DePalma’s iconic works, but it’s a gripping murder mystery and well worth another watch.
David Fincher’s 2007 epic is a dark, meandering masterpiece. Inspired by the dreadful murders of the Zodiac killer, who killed throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s as well as taunting police with letters, blood stained clothing and ciphers mailed to newspapers. Fincher’s film doesn’t follow the case, instead it focuses on the effect it had on the men who investigated it.
Jack Gyllenhaal plays Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle who became obsessed with solving the case, Robert Downey Jnr plays Paul Avery, a journalist at the paper who winds up sinking into depression after covering the case and Mark Ruffalo, police detective David Toschi, who was driven to despair by his inability to solve the murder.
It’s slow, deliberate and very creepy at times, but an incredibly engrossing watch.
Jodie Foster bagged herself an Oscar for this edgy and stomach-churning thriller, which remains one of the great legal dramas. Loosely inspired by the gang rape and assault of Cheryl Araunjo, Foster plays Sarah Tobias, a young woman who is raped by a group of men in a bar while another group cheer them on. When her prosecutor Kathryn Murphy (played by Top Gun star Kelly McGillis) takes a deal that see the perpetrators serve limited jail time, Sarah in enraged and demands her day in court.
After Sarah is hospitalised for crashing her car into the pick-up truck of one of the men who cheered on the assault, Kathryn decides to go after the men for criminal solicitation and risk everything in the process.
This isn’t for the faint-hearted with some fairly graphic scenes and lots of moments that are very hard to watch, but this is a gutsy drama that still stands up to this day.
This heartbreaking drama was inspired by the cases of Geoffrey Bowers and Clarence B. Cain, both laywers who were fired after they revealed to their employers that they were HIV positive who decided to sue for wrongful dismissal.
In the movie, Tom Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, a Senior Associate at the largest corporate law firm in Philadelphia, who has the early stages of HIV. When he is suddenly fired after a mysterious cock-up with some case files, he decides to sue for wrongful dismissal. After being turned away by a number of lawyers he eventually finds Denzel Washington’s Joe Miller, he too turns him down, but eventually reconsiders despite his obvious homophobia.
Eventually the pair reach court, but can they persuade the jury?
Hanks picked up an Oscar for his role, while the movie made Washington a mega star. Watching it back now, it’s easy to see why.
Julia Roberts picked up an Oscar for her role as Erin Brockovich, the unemployed single mother of three who went on to uncover mass negligence by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company and crusaded to win over $300 million in compensation for those affected.
The case is chronicled in full, but this is more about Brockovich, her struggle to be taken seriously by lawyers, her home life, her relationships and her determination to get to the bottom of things. An iconic performance from Roberts, this is a spunky, lively and wonderful thriller.
The Face Of An Angel is out now on DVD. Click here to purchase it from our online store.