Connect with us

Movie Reviews

Bang Bang Club



Released: 15th September 2010

Director: Steven Silver

Stars: Taylor Kitsch, Ryan Phillippe, Frank Rautenbach

Reviewer: Jared Calfee

Movies based on historical events can be done in several ways. They can be a documentary style account of the events with actors simply replacing the real life characters. They can be highly personalized, with a fictionalized character telling the story by living through the events. Or they can be done in the style of a movie like Apollo 13, with the director taking liberties in each individual scene, but the characters and plot remain true to the actual events. The problem with The Bang Bang Club is that it attempts to be a mixture of the three, and each style hampers the effectiveness of the other.

That said, this isn’t a bad movie. The story centers around four photojournalists documenting the apartheid period in South Africa for the four years following the release of Nelson Mandela. The real-life story is extraordinary so the movie should have at least been really good, if not great. The problem is that we don’t learn enough about the true story, or the issues facing the South African people. Twenty minutes in, I thought I was really going to enjoy it. The first part of the movie is done mainly in the documentary style and the action scenes are very intense. Then they spend a large portion of the film focusing on personal romantic relationships which comes out of nowhere and it adds absolutely nothing to the film. Then they get back to action/documentary style and the movie picks up again. Towards the end, the film begins to focus on the emotional and physical toll which is taken upon the photographers by their constant proximity to atrocity and death. But these personal breakdowns are not as effective as they could have been because the characters have not been developed nearly enough.

The acting in the movie is consistently good. Ryan Phillippe is solid in the starring role as Greg Marinovich.  Taylor Kitsch is also very good as the somewhat disturbed and drug addicted Kevin Carter, and his emotional collapse toward the end of the film makes us wish we had seen a little more of him early on. The best acting, however, comes from the actors playing the black South Africans actually ensnared in the conflict. They do an exceptional job of making you feel their pain and their fear.

The runtime of this movie is 106 minutes. About 30 of those minutes make the film much less than what it could and should have been. If you are looking for an interesting afternoon movie about apartheid in South Africa, then you will probably enjoy this. If you are really interested in learning about the characters, the things they went through, and South African culture, you will be better served reading the book.

Just For You