The Gunman (2015): Is the Thriller Movie Inspired by a True Story?

‘The Gunman,’ directed by Pierre Morel, is an intense action thriller movie set in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during political unrest based on mining operations. To survive, an ex-black ops assassin, Jim Terrier (Sean Penn), who spent eight years hiding out after killing the mining minister of the DRC, must play the cat-and-mouse game while carrying the baggage of his past. Searching for clues about a hit team attempting to kill him, Jim retraces his steps and finds his long-lost girlfriend, Annie.

The 2015 movie explores how his problematic past is submerged in PTSD episodes with the thrilling search for the main suspect out to get him. The realistic scenes of mining operations in Congo, the backdrop of political unrest where a country is on the brink of a civil war, the authentic imagery of people suffering, and the brilliant performance of the actors make the film very compelling. If you are wondering whether the film is based on real-life events, here is everything you need to know.

The Gunman: Inspired by Jean-Patrick Manchette’s Novel The Prone Gunman

‘The Gunman’ is not based on a true story. The movie is inspired by the fiction crime thriller novel, ‘The Prone Gunman’ by the French writer Jean-Patrick Manchette, which itself is a work of fiction. Screenwriters Pete Travis, Don Macpherson, and Sean Penn (who essays Jim Terrier) effectively adapted the novel for the screen and painted a realistic picture of the situation in a war-clad Congo in 2006, where a mercenary assassin named Jim shoots the mining minister, which induces further geopolitical issues in Congo. Jim is thus forced into hiding, leaving his beloved Annie behind. 

Eight years later, Jim is seen on his atonement journey but is soon faced with a surprise hit squad that is sent to kill him. Jim attempts to find out who sent for them while undergoing severe PTSD attacks. Thus begins the game of cats and mice to find the mastermind behind his attempted murder. The movie’s assertiveness in addressing the hardship of Congo and the life of an ex-mercenary soldier, who is constantly haunted by his past, makes the movie so believable. However, it is all driven by a fictional script.

Having said that, the action-packed scenes and the chase scenes closely resonate with other action-thriller movies. One such film is Liam Neeson’s ‘Taken‘ (2008) by the same director Pierre Morel. It centers upon an ex-CIA officer, Bryan Mills, who sets out to find the kidnappers of his daughter Kim and her friend Amanda. The film’s action scenes are seem identical to ‘The Gunman,’ if not better. Then there is the 2014 film, ‘The November Man,’ based on the novel ‘There are No Spies’ by Bill Granger.

Starring Pierce Brosnan in the lead, ‘The November Man’ follows Peter Devereaux, an ex-CIA agent who is recalled to service to retrieve a Russian agent, who happens to be his former lover. Due to unfortunate circumstances, she gets killed, and the Devereaux goes rogue, attempting to seek revenge. Much like ‘The Gunman’ centering around the protagonist who embarks on a mission to find the people who want him dead in a chase game, ‘The November Man‘ seeks out in search of the killers of his former lover in great action-packed scenes.

Taking the aforementioned factors into account, we reiterate that though the realistic and captivating narrative might make many believe it is rooted in reality, ‘The Gunman’ is a purely fictional action thriller film steered by a geopolitical narrative around the illegal mining operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a man who attempts to escape his dark past. 

Read More: Where Was The Gunman Filmed?