Movie reviews

Students from Social Studies Teacher Kevin Sanders’s U.S. History class wrote movie reviews as a class assignment

“The Untouchables” – By senior David Johnson

The Untouchables is a movie about the cops who took down notorious mobster Al Capone, it shows their story, tactics, and the story of the crimes Al Capone committed. The story surrounds the prohibition era when Capone was at his height and was the biggest criminal in the world. The story is seen as a great movie but there is a lot that is lacking on Capone and his character that could’ve pushed this movie to legendary status.

Though Al Capone was not a person you would want your kids to look up to there is no doubt his story is legendary which is why it is very damaging to the movie that Capone is a very shallow character who is just seen as your average villain. Al Capone was a very critical thinker and the movie does not acknowledge that. They use Capone more as a set piece than a character because he really only delivers big lines and has a big entrance but the scenes he has are much more limited than you would expect from the biggest criminal ever.

Capone in real life was seen as this larger than life man who was known by all in a bad way. He was a super villain in real life and even got away with it for a while. He was a millionaire while still being very young and set a small empire under the nose of the government and it is not shown enough in the movie. While the movie talks about all of his illegal alcohol operations it does not bring up his tax evading and things of that nature nearly enough even though they are a huge reason for how he got caught.

The Untouchables does focus more on the story of the police who stopped Capone the movie is even named after them but I think having a movie with Al Capone along with having a legendary actor like Robert De Niro play him is a missed opportunity to not make him more of a main character. A scene that is good at showing Capone and his methods are two scenes early in the morning. The first is when he is getting shaved and the man shaving his beard accidentally cuts him, at first Capone looks serious and you can see the fear that strikes the man that cut his face but then Capone tells him it’s alright and the press begins talking to Capone. This scene just shows the shear intimidation Capone had as a person and it was just not jumped on enough in this movie. The other scene that shows his crazy tactics was when he was at dinner with a bunch of other men and they are all agreeing with what he is saying and then out of nowhere, to send a message he beats one to death with a baseball bat, silencing the room. This shows the crazy genius of Capone as even though he was a horrible person he found a way to control the way people acted around him and he was a borderline puppet master.

Other than the two scenes previously mentioned, the movie does not capitalize on Al Capone’s character in this movie. The movie would tremendously improve with a deeper Al Capone character and more about his story and why the Untouchables wanted to get him so badly.

“The Greatest Game Ever Played” –  By senior Nicholas Snyder

“The Greatest Game Ever Played,” directed by Bill Paxton, takes the traditionally viewed as boring sport of golf and transforms it into a success story of accomplishment and perseverance. The film follows the story of the first ever amatuer to win the U.S. Open, Francis Ouimet. To provide context, to this day the U.S. Open is an outing like no other and remains one of the 4 majors in professional golf. Of course, if you are a fan of golf your will adore this film. Even simple sports fans will watch in celebration. What if you are not a fan of sports? This film still details the success of a working class young man among the elite. As the film is set in 1913 anyone can be intrigued by the historical context that this film provides.

This movie clearly depicts the separation of classes in the sport of golf. In a time where only wealthy men could step foot on the acres of perfectly manicured greens, the main character Francis cannot deny his interest. All odds blatantly state that Francis has no business stepping foot on a golf course, but nonetheless he perseveres.

Aside from the fact that this film offers a dramatization of a great moment in sports history, it is also a well done film. Camera work and effect done to tell the story of a great golf shot work so well. You forget that you are watching a modern movie, and instead slip into the mindset of the early 20th century with the omnipotence of following a story to as great a detail as possible.

“Pocahontas” – By senior Cooper Heaton

Pocahontas is a 1995 Disney Film which follows the story of Pocahontas and John Smith coming together and forming a relationship which leads the Jamestown Settlers and the Powhatan to see each other’s differences and end the conflict between the two groups. Pocahontas is not based in history. The contents of the film make for a nice and neat children’s film but do not accurately portray the lives of Pocahontas and John Smith, and the conflict between the two groups.

We do know that some aspects of the film are correct. John Smith was in fact abducted by the Powhatan tribe. During his time that he was captured by them, he did get to know Pocahontas and is on record saying that she taught him some of her language and vice versa, but it is disputed whether she was truly involved in freeing John Smith.

But, the film is more fiction than reality. In the film, Pocahontas is presented as an 18-19 year old woman yet in reality she was around 11-12 when she met John Smith. Another discrepancy between real life and the film is John Smith and Pocahontas’ relationship. John Smith and Pocahontas were never in a relationship. In fact, the real Pocahontas was married to another settler named John Rolfe when she was around 15-16 and was subsequently paraded around Europe for spectators to stare in awe at the “noble savage.” Pocahontas died at the young age of 21 from an unknown respiratory illness, separated from her family, in a foreign land.

These discrepancies are not accidental, as the true story of Pocahontas is a tragic one of colonial powers corrupting her culture and marrying her off to be shown as a spectacle in Europe. This story, obviously, is not pleasant and can’t be marketed toward children. The film has received an outpouring of dissatisfaction from Native American groups for its dishonest portrayal of events and whitewashing of history. Disney chose to tell a story that was heartwarming over the truth, and it is only up to time to tell if this was the right decision.

“The Greatest Game Ever Played” – By senior Luke Goodwin

In the film, “The Greatest Game Ever Played”, there was a constant feeling of a human element throughout the film that makes people who don’t like golf even enjoy the film.

During the film they show Francis Ouimet as a young boy and they follow him as he grows older. In the film Francis found a love for the sport of golf at a young age since him and his poor family lived across from a golf course. As he grew older he became a caddy, and he would caddy and play golf as an ameutar. The human element comes to life when you think about how Francis grew up poor and wanting to play golf, when golf in America was only for the wealthy. That hits home to many people these days who grow up poor or grow up without many opportunities, in the film Francis shows that it is possible to do what you want, no matter if you are poor or rich. According to a biography on Francis on the website for the Francis Ouimet scholarship fund says, “There were very few players in America, no public courses, and the game was confined mostly to the wealthy. Ouimet’s victory changed all of that. His victory and unlikely background combined to create an inspirational moment. Within ten years the number of players tripled.”

On the other side of the story you have the supposed villain of the story, Harry Vardon. Surprisingly Harry Vardon grew up much like Francis did. Harry grew up in a poor working class family, who lived directly on top of a golf course. And in the beginning of the movie you can see his house while some ment survey their land for the construction of a new golf course. This is the moment when Harry finds out what golf is when he asks one of the men, who are looking at the property. Harry also brings that human element to the movie because we find out pretty early on that Harry Vardon is one of the biggest names in the golf scene at that time and golf at that time was a gentleman’s game, and Harry was no gentleman. He was a class act. Also throughout the film you can see that Harry sees himself when he looks at Francis, because of how similar they are. And you can tell that Harry knows Francis is a great golfer, but he would never make it in the establishment.

In all, the film “The Greatest Game Ever Played”, is more than just a golfing movie. It shows that with no matter what background you come from, you can achieve pretty much anything you want to, as long as you work for it. And as you can see from them playing at the U.S. open towards the end of the game, both Harry and Francis were showing great sportsmanship and generosity throughout the match, which many athletes not only people who play golf but all athletes could watch this film and see how the sportsmanship and generosity portrayed the characters, and work on improving themselves in their sports too.

“Gangs of New York” – By senior Chad Gill

“Gangs of New York” is a movie directed by Martin Scorsese. This movie portrays how floods of Irish workers that went to the United States were treated upon arriving. English and Dutch locals in New York’s city of Five Points clearly showed they were not too fond of the newcomers. Bill the Butcher took the case to a new level when he leads a gang of locals into a war with them. Bill murders Priest Vallon, the head of the Irish, and his son, Amsterdam, runs away. A few years later, Amsterdam, played by Leonardo Dicaprio, returns and looks for retribution for his father. “Gangs of New York” is a historical film that follows the experiences of a youthful Irish American man. 

“Gangs of New York” starts in the year 1846, in which Amsterdam’s father, a Catholic Irish immigrant, sets out to battle the Protestants already in New York. Irish participation in the war occurred because they didn’t want to teach Protestant teachings, which they were not in favor of, to be approved by the government. After the grisly scene where Amsterdam’s father is killed, the film is told from Amsterdam’s perspective. He depicts what occurs in the city of Five Points and how the resident’s act. In Five Points. Amsterdam says that foreigners are not invited nor are they hired by anyone. Irish migrants went to the United States, especially in the north, since “job opportunities were most abundant and the new arrivals would not have to compete with slave labor” (Foner 319) Locals of Five Points didn’t acknowledge any settling newcomers since they were following orders of Bill the Butcher, who appears as though he is in complete control of the city. He is working under William “Chief” Tweed, the head of Tammany Hall. His method of fighting for control of the city is through fights and arson. Amsterdam’s perspective shapes the historical narrative in the movie by portraying what occurred during the span of the 1860s just as recounting the narrative of his existence with his partners, who were also immigrants.  ㅤ ㅤ

Racism, the Irish movement, and fights among Catholics and Protestants were significant pieces of history that influence the current day. “Gangs of New York” would not be suggested as an instructing apparatus for finding out about the Irish-American historical experience during the mid-nineteenth century United States. In spite of the fact that the film is engaging and interesting, it discards certain occasions in history that understudies will at last learn. For example, it never mentions the Civil War and how it influences the North and the South, though it did change a lot of what was happening in the movie. Subjugation in new York was excluded from the film, despite the fact that it had a couple of scenes that demonstrated how African Americans were treated during this time. The film’s emphasis is for the most part on a person who needs vengeance for the execution of his father. Amsterdam’s father himself was an immigrant to the United States and was in the long run executed for his confidence and braveness of expressing his belief in Catholicism. Amsterdam was an American brought into the world as an Irish resident who would like to keep the religion he was raised by. Scenes show Amsterdam and Everdeane having affection only serve as a distraction to the people who wanted to learn about Irish immigration. The idea of Irish immigration is far more important than affection, as well as the physical toll they had to go through just to experience life among Americans. “Gangs of New York” would be suggested for its amusement and entertainment, but not as an educational instrument.