Listening to a recent interview with famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson got me thinking. He was joking about how he always analyses the films he watches to see if they’ve got the physics right. He noted how this had been picked up by the media following his comments on Twitter about inaccuracies in the film Gravity, and how some of it just couldn’t happen.
As a physio I’ve found something similar; my profession spills over into the things I watch..
This became apparent whilst watching one of my favourite film trilogies. The Batman Dark Knight series directed by Christopher Nolan. I remember my eager anticipation for the last film in the series, and my excitement going to see it. This excitement, however, was slightly spoiled by my physio mind..
In the scene after Batman’s fight with Bane beneath the city (where Batman seemingly gets his back broken). Bruce Wayne lies crippled in an exotic underground prison, only to be strung up by rope from the ceiling to have his ‘protruding vertebrae’ punched back into place.. Miraculously after a period of time hanging from the ceiling.. He can walk again! Although I knew it was only a film (featuring superheroes), I couldn’t help from thinking about the anatomical impossibility of what I’d witnessed.
The Car Chase Frustration
Ok, so a one off irritation?.. Unfortunately not. My physio mind interrupts me frequently when watching a common feature of action/thriller movies; the car chase. Something that tickled me during all of the Bourne films; watching each car chase as Jason Bourne races through the streets, down steps and over jumps. I couldn’t help but think as his car collided with the side of pursuing police car what grade whiplash he might suffer from on the Quebec scale.. The over-analysis didn’t stop there; as the following scenes left me thinking how he might be far too stiff to roundhouse kick the villain if it’d happened in real life.
Recently this over analysis was brought to the forefront of my mind again, whilst watching a new addition on Netflix; the film ‘Bleed for This’. A film based on a true story about boxer Vinny Pazienza who suffered from fractured vertebrae in a car accident, only to return to the ring to win a world championship. Although this may sound wrong.. this time I was pleasantly surprised to find the injuries sustained matched the apparent severity of the accident on screen.. Terrible I know.
Not All Bad!
It didn’t end there. I also struggled to find fault with the recovery process. The physio within actually cracked a smiled at Vinnys determination to recover, and how the film showed him training with his external, steel neck brace (that was bolted to his skull) still in situ. As someone that likes to work round problems rather than use them as a reason to ‘rest up’, this appealed to me greatly.
Perhaps due to it being based on real life, this film was different. So just a one off?
Racking my brains, it turns out there were quite a few of these examples. From Hank getting mowed down in Breaking Bad, struggling emotionally and pouring with sweat learning to walk again, to Leonardo DiCaprio being mauled by a bear in The Revenant and nearly dying, to using bits of wood he found lying about to help him rehabilitate his own broken leg.
The Hollywood Factor
Although these examples undoubtedly used some poetic license make them more entertaining, a common theme that appears (and that I probably enjoy more because I’m a Physio), is the visible struggle and fighting back against the odds back to normality.
Watching these stories of recovery has certainly helped provide some fresh motivation for my work after the credits finished rolling. Going to work the next day, I’ve found an extra burst of enthusiasm wanting to help people push that bit more to get that little bit better than they thought they could.
The flip side of this ‘Hollywood factor’ is how it impacts on the people that come to see me. Many people have seen the same things on TV and in movies and assume it’s going to be a straight simple path back to recovery. The reality, however, is much less glamourous. Treatment can often be slow, tedious, repetitive with disheartening steps backwards every so often, which can often be a hard pill to swallow.
Even though it’s comforting to think that Neil deGrasse Tyson also watches films through the lens of his profession, it’s probably not a good habit to have. I think I might give films a break for a bit and go play outside.