JAMES Dean became an icon of cinema almost by accident.

His talent was undeniable and he embraced challenges but he was unpredictable, spontaneous and had a tendency to drift away from his responsibilities.

Anton Corbijn's Life – based on true events – attempts to understand the man behind the myth by looking at his life before he took on the role that went on to define him, Rebel Without A Cause.

Dean will now always be synonymous with that role but Corbijn's film makes you question whether the actor really was a 'rebel' or perhaps misunderstood.

Set in 1955, the story focuses on Dean's uneasy friendship with photographer Dennis Stock (Robert Pattison) who recognised the actor's talent and potential long before the rest of the media.

If you are a fan of the iconic pictures of Dean from that era, chances are they were taken by Stock for Life magazine. He went on to have a high profile career before his death in 2010.

This is the story behind the photographs and it is a tale which is a lot more interesting than it ought to be.

Dane DeHaan is exceptional as James Dean in one of his first major roles. He brings warmth and charisma to the character whose unique way about him brought about both his rise and fall.

Some of the best scenes in the film are Dean's run-ins with Jack Warner (Ben Kingsley), from Warner Bros, who could not stand the actor's devil may care attitude but could not resist his magnetism as a leading man.

But really the film is about the dynamic between Dean and Stock.

The pair are at opposite ends of the spectrum with Dean easy going but overwhelmed by the notion of fame and celebrity thrust upon him and Stock highly strung and wanting to seize the day.

But both men are chasing their dreams and that is what holds them together.

Forget Pattinson in the Twilight saga. After the likes of dystopian drama, The Rover, and now this, the actor has really come into his own.

A true story, Life could also be considered the companion piece to Corbijn's debut film, Control, about tragic Joy Division singer Ian Curtis.

Both films make you think and, just like Stock's photographs, they tells of a moment in time.

- Life is out on DVD and Blu-ray now