Three Great Film Adaptations of Conservative Novels
'American Assassin' was a hit with Vince Flynn fans and others — here are like-minded films that did right by the books that spawned them
After more than a decade in development — during which time author Vince Flynn passed away — the popular counterterrorism agent Mitch Rapp finally made the leap from the pages of best-selling thrillers onto the big screen.
Though many people were nervous at the idea that Hollywood was taking on the brutal novels — which include honest depictions of radical Islam and the government red tape that goes hand-in-hand with global politics — fans seem to have approved of the final product.
“American Assassin” is not a typical Hollywood action movie. It’s a politically incorrect, violent, and patriotic story that acts as a wonderful salute to the novels that inspired it.
“American Assassin” opened with a strong $15 million start over the weekend. As long as it has fairly strong legs at the box office going forward, one may expect to see plenty more of Mitch Rapp in theaters.
In celebration of the success of “American Assassin” — and in honor of its getting Flynn’s world right — here’s a look three other great movie adaptations of conservative novels.
1.) “Shooter” (2007). Readers love Stephen Hunter’s novels for their accurate depictions of firearms, their intensity, and their characters — such as Bob Lee Swagger, a former Marine sniper with a moral code reminiscent of that in a John Wayne movie.
The novels were best-sellers (a 10th novel was published over the summer), but it took a long time for a Swagger movie to happen. It likely didn’t help that Stephen Hunter’s day job was that of a movie critic for many years. He was known as one of the more brutal ones out there — his quick-wit and edgy honesty in his reviews eventually won him a Pulitzer Prize in 2003.
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The first Swagger adventure, 1993’s “Point of Impact,” was finally brought to the big screen in 2007 in the form of “Shooter,” an action flick with Mark Wahlberg in the lead role of world’s deadliest sniper.
After being pulled out of a solitary life for help on one last mission, Swagger is set up and then thrown into the middle of a government conspiracy involving Washington bureaucrats — the types of spineless men who always underestimate people like him.
Though there were significant changes to Hunter’s original text (Swagger was no longer a Vietnam veteran, for starters), the movie captured the spirit and heart of the books. Swagger is a rugged hero, an individualist with a strict moral code and no patience for government red tape or politics.
Though the movie flopped when originally released in theaters, it gained a major cult following on home video, and for good reason. Its action is impressive, and Wahlberg captures the character of Swagger incredibly well. The film eventually gained such a following that producers turned it into a television series by the same name — with Ryan Phillippe (pictured above) taking on the lead role.
The film is one of the better action films to come out of Hollywood in recent years, one that stays true to Hunter’s book by properly highlighting the character of Swagger, a lone hero up against the elitist machine of modern-day politics.
2.) “The Fountainhead” (1949). Though most know the late novelist Ayn Rand as the author of “Atlas Shrugged” — one of the best-selling and most influential books of all time — she first found literary success with her 1943 novel, “The Fountainhead.”
Henry Roark (Gary Cooper) is a young architect who refuses to compromise his unique vision despite great pushback from the elite Establishment players in his industry. The film, and the novel, play with the same sorts of ideas Rand presented in “Atlas Shrugged.” “The Fountainhead” is about individualism, progress, and staying true to one’s heart no matter the resistance along the road to success.
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Though the movie was received negatively when it came out in 1949, it has gained a major cult following over the decades with artists and architects. Famed architect David Rockwell, president of the Rockwell Group, has said the film was a major influence on his desire to enter the world of architecture and design. He also told Variety he knew many architecture students who would name their dogs Roark after the main character in the film.
In recent years, the idea of doing a new “Fountainhead” movie has been mentioned quite often. Just last year, “Batman v Superman” director Zack Snyder said it was his dream to have a new version made.
“The Fountainhead” movie may not live up to the epic novel on which it’s based, but it’s an inspired piece of cinema with great lead performances from Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal. The ideas of individualism and pushing back against collectivism are represented well here (in a script credited to Rand). It would be nice to see a few more movies like “The Fountainhead” come out of Hollywood today.
3.) “The Hunt for Red October” (1990). Tom Clancy’s 1984 novel found success after it was spotted in the hands of former President Ronald Reagan — who told the press it was a “perfect yarn.” Readers then flocked to bookstores and turned the novel into a massive success.
“October” followed Clancy’s famed Jack Ryan character, a patriotic CIA analyst and former Marine.
The 1990 film version starred Alec Baldwin as Ryan and Sean Connery as Marko Ramius, a decorated submarine captain who begins to worry many when he starts pushing his sub toward the U.S. In the midst of the Cold War, no one knows whether he is defecting or trying to start a war. Either way, Ryan is the only person who can stop him.
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Clancy’s books quickly earned a reputation among military personnel and historians for being thoroughly researched and uniquely accurate in their depictions of military equipment and procedures.
“The Hunt for Red October” captured the fire of Clancy’s novel and holds up incredibly well after all these years. Connery gave one of his finest and most complicated performances, while director John McTiernan created one of the most tense films of the ’90s.