Life is a 1999 movie directed by Ted Demme, which landed on Netflix in 2023. Starring Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence, the film tells a touching story about two New Yorkers sentenced to life in prison, although innocent. The plot is very realistic, with a loyal representation of America from the 30s to the modern days, so people wonder if there is a true story behind it and if the characters of Ray Gibson & Claude Banks are real. Let’s discover it.
You can watch the official trailer for Life, the 1999 movie, here on Youtube.
Is Life (1999) movie a true story? Are Ray Gibson & Claude Banks real?
People who watched the movie Life, released in 1999, may wonder if a true story inspires it and if Ray Gibson and Claude Banks existed in real life for a simple reason: the story is told by an old man who shared with them the prison years, and the movie ends with an indication saying that Ray Gibson & Claude Banks are alive, living together in Harlem.
The truth is that Ray Gibson & Claude Banks are fictional characters, and the movie is not based on any true story. The narrative expedient and the indications in the closing scene are just fictional tools that properly fit the story, but Ray Gibson and Claude Banks are not real.
As disappointing as it may feel to someone, the 1999 movie Life is just an interesting story born from the writers Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone. It’s a realistic story, of course, and it’s no secret that history is full of people convicted to vast punishments even though they were innocent. Racism has been a relevant phenomenon in the United States over the last century, so the story is undoubtedly plausible: it’s normal that one may think it really happened.
The ending explained: are Ray Gibson & Claude Banks actually alive?
As the movie progresses, Willie Long tells us the story of his inmates, Raymond Gibson and Claude Banks. When the film approaches the ending, Willie reveals Banks’ secret plan to escape the prison: he stole two corpses from the morgue, then started a fire during the night, planning to pretend to remain trapped inside the dormitory room and place the two bodies there, while they escape. This way, the guards will find two corpses, knowing that Ray and Claude were still inside, and will conclude that they died in the fire, avoiding searching them.
The prisoners digging the grave ask why the plan failed, and Willie answers, laughing, “I never said it failed.” In the scene later, we see Ray Gibson and Claude Banks alive, watching a baseball match at the stadium, and the film ends with a written indication saying that they are still alive and living together. According to this explanation, their plan actually succeeded exactly as Claude wanted, and the two managed to escape prison. With this happy ending, the movie has explained Ray and Claude’s destiny to us.
There is also an alternative theory, proposed by a fan on Reddit, according to which Ray Gibson and Claude Banks actually died in the fire, respecting Claude’s prediction about the fact that they will die in prison, and the scene with Ray and Claude at the stadium is actually the fruit of the gravediggers’ imagination. It would also be a poetic ending, and nothing in the movie proves the theory wrong (except maybe the written indication at the end). After all, the spectator is free to decide how to interpret the movie.