American Assassin: Is the Movie Inspired by True Events?

‘American Assassin’ is a 2017 action thriller movie directed by Michael Cuesta that focuses on a young and promising CIA black ops recruit named Mitch Rapp, who is determined to make an impact in the world of counterterrorism after a terrorist attack becomes the reason for his lover’s untimely and unexpected demise. On a mission to avenge her death, he assists the tough and experienced Cold War veteran, Stan Hurley, by working under his wing and volunteering to do anything he can to put an end to terrorism.

Mitch and Stan receive a challenging assignment, which involves them having to look into a series of random deadly attacks on civilian as well as military targets. When they see a pattern of violence, the duo learns about an operative who wishes to start a global war. Then, they take help from a Turkish agent in order to stop the villainous operative in his tracks and save the world from the detonation of a nuclear weapon. Starring Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan, Shiva Negar, and Taylor Kitsch, the high-octane action film gives us a seemingly realistic glimpse into the world of CIA operatives, leaving the viewers questioning the authenticity of the story.

American Assassin is Based on a Book by Vince Flynn

No, ‘American Assassin’ is not based on a true story. Instead, it is inspired by the eponymous book written by Vince Flynn, who has a series of thriller books led by Mitch Rapp. While various aspects of the storylines and character sketches have been taken right from the book, the screenwriters — Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch, Edward Zwick, and Marshall Herskovitz — also made the most of their creative minds to deviate from the book and come up with something original as well. For instance, in the book, the 1988 Lockerbie bombing is what motivates Mitch, but in the movie, the tragedy that encourages him to get into the world of counterterrorism is the opening terrorist attack on the beach.

Some other differences one might find between the book and the movie are the fact that there is no bomb or character like Ghost in the book, and the book is set in an earlier time while the movie is more contemporary. Given so many improvisations made to the original story of the book, one of the screenwriters of ‘American Assassin,’ Stephen Schiff, was asked by The Hollywood Reporter if his team of writers had drawn any inspiration from the real-life terrorist attacks. He answered, “Well the strange thing — and the sad thing really — is that I didn’t.”

He added, “I was just making these things up and then unfortunately a lot of them happened, not because I’m prescient but because that’s the world we’re living in and I guess as I was writing it some of that edginess that we’re all experiencing seeped into the work as I think is justifiable for a movie like this.” When the director, Michael Cuesta, joined the movie, he also contributed in his own way to the development of the script. They delved into the shadow arm of the CIA, something which he was curious about. They focused on the idea of revenge and retribution, which is personal to people in the real world, and included the same in the screenplay.

Cuesta also worked closely with Stephen Schiff for about three months as he admitted to Shockya, “We continued to work together, even during pre-production. I got my consultants together, as I wanted to work on ideas.” In the same interview, Sanaa Lathan, who portrays Irene Kennedy in ‘American Assassin,’ also talked about how they got help from several ex-military and ex-CIA consultants, who had gone through the things that the characters go through in the narrative. She said, “So I was able to pick their brains about what (Irene) would go through, and what kind of person she would be to be in this job position.”

Elaborating on her character, Sanaa Lathan explained that she “has a doctorate and is really intelligent. But there also has to be a toughness in her. I don’t know a lot of people who have that kind of toughness. It’s a very male-dominated world, so for her to rise up within that environment is fascinating.” So, by taking into consideration all the above-mentioned factors, we can come to the conclusion that ‘American Assassin’ might have some true-to-life themes and elements sprinkled throughout the narrative, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is mostly inspired by the book of the same name and not rooted in reality.

Read More: Best Action Movies on Peacock