Moneyball (2011, dir. Bennett Miller)

A baseball team manager tries an unorthodox approach to player selection. Based on the Michael Lewis non-fiction account, this is a riveting sports drama from perhaps unpromisingly uncinematic – though excellent – source material. A smart script, understated playing, and keen observational direction make this a modern classic. Recommended.

Here’s the trailer.

Texas Killing Fields (2011, dir. Amy Canaan Mann)

Detectives struggle with a series of murders. Based very loosely on real-world unsolved crimes, this noir-ish thriller can’t decide whether to go for procedural or for obsessive cop angst. It tries both, and so doesn’t gel. Decent performances from an up-and-coming cast and an OK look make this a not-uninteresting curio though.

Here’s the trailer.

Silk Road (2021, dir. Tiller Russell)

A tech wiz develops an online trading portal for drugs: a burnout agent begins to investigate. Loosely based on a true story, this thriller/drama plays off opposites – digital/analogue, young/old – to generally OK if at-times soapy effect. No real surprises, but some effective playing from a decent cast. Paul Walter Hauser shines in a key supporting role.

Here’s the trailer.

The Outpost (2020, dir. Rod Lurie)

A remote US facility in 2006 Northern Afghanistan is attacked by Taliban forces. Based on true events, this is a generally even-handed attempt to tell a base-under-siege story (from the Jake Tapper book): strong on camaraderie and on the chaos of conflict, using pseudo-documentary elements to add clarity.

Here’s the trailer:

Tag (2018, dir. Jeff Tomsic)

Five school friends have been playing the same game of tag for 30 years. Based on a true story, this is a solid action-comedy with a couple of moments of dark genius. The denouement is emotionally-manipulated, but by then the flick’s earned enough goodwill to let matters slide. Unexpectedly good, and thus a recommendation.

Bad Education (2020, dir. Cory Finlay)

A school superintendent and their deputy are revealed, in part by a student investigation, to be embezzling from the school system. Smart black comedy-drama, based on a true story. Underplayed throughout, with fine performances from seasoned hands, and a sense that maybe the right lessons are still to be learned by some.

The Vanishing [AKA Keepers] (2018, dir. Kristoffer Nyholm)

A mismatched trio of lighthouse keepers turn on each other. Lean, austere psychological thriller that – while not quite landing all of its story and character moments – offers meaty roles for its central characters, and a welcome change of pace for its star. The movie’s premise is based on a real-life incident.

Richard Jewell (2019, dir. Clint Eastwood)

An inadequate security guard becomes the focus of an FBI terrorism enquiry. A stately based-on-a-true-story drama which – despite some clunky telescoping of its story – delivers in character study terms, as well as acknowledging an unconventional hero. Not perfect, but recommended, and with a startling central performance from Paul Walter Hauser.

The Laundromat (2019, dir. Steven Soderbergh)

A widow investigates an insurance company; a complicated web of financial fraud unravels. Superficially similar to The Big Short and Vice in its mix of drama, comedy and mockumentary, The Laundromat offers a clear and accessible primer to the Panama Papers scandal, and to Mossack (Oldman) and Fonseca (Banderas), both gleeful at its heart.

Kursk: The Last Mission [AKA The Command; AKA Kursk] (2018, dir. Thomas Vinterberg)

A sombre retelling of the 2000 Kursk submarine disaster. Okay drama-documentary that takes some liberties with the actual timeline, and which struggles to make the inevitable dramatic, despite good performances. The usual points made.