[Review] – Marley

6 May

Title: Marley
Year: 2012
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Writer: –
Starring: Bob Marley
MPAA Rating: PG-13, drug content, thematic elements and some violent images
Runtime: 144 min
IMDb Rating: 7.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Metacritic: 82

Kevin Macdonald is a pretty great filmmaker (something that’s probably genetic seeing how he’s the grandson of the legendary Emeric Pressburger), one who has been able to dabble with equal success in narrative and nonfiction films, having given us films like The Last King of Scotland and State of Play while also giving us truly spectacular documentaries like his Oscar-winning One Day in September and last year’s experimental Life in a Day which was made out of footage submitted by people on YouTube (which I gave an A- to). This time around, he’s given us a new documentary focusing on one of the most legendary musical icons, Bob Marley, and the result is a truly spectacular look into the life of a truly special man, with some awesome concert footage as the icing on the cake.

This really is one of those truly great documentaries, certainly the best I’ve seen since last year’s stunning Senna. And at nearly two-and-a-half hours it offers a truly exhaustive look at the life of Robert Nesta Marley, covering it chronologically and that, considering how it’s been approved by his family, will definitely stand as the definitive insight into the life and work of reggae’s greatest legend. I’m a fan of Bob Marley, so I was predisposed to be really into this documentary, but even those who don’t know much about the man will be grabbed by the lapels by what Mr. Macdonald gives us, and get to know why this man was such a revolutionary force, not only in music but also in the role he took as a social activist.

Because if you know something about Bob Marley is that his social and political stances were just as important, if not more so, than the indelible musical legacy he left behind. He’s the most important Jamaican who’s ever lived, and he used his musical talents to translate his passion and to try and unite the world and rise above the racial issues and the politics of it all.

The fact that we’re finally getting Marley is a thing to treasure. After all, this is a man who’s music and image is known by pretty much everyone on Earth, and yet we had never gotten a look as comprehensive as this into his life because his family was super guarded about giving access to the musical and archival footage they held the rights to. That changed with this film, in which the family not only allowed for all of that to be used, but also gave some truly great interviews that abound in this film and that really help you to get to know this amazing man more intimately.

Mr. Macdonald really does a spectacular job at crafting this one, a task that was previously taken on by Martin Scorsese and then Jonathan Demme who both ended up leaving the project. Mr. Scorsese is my favorite director of all-time, and Mr. Demme is a great filmmaker as well, but I somehow can’t see how anyone could have made a better film out of Marley than what we just got. This is a truly ambitious film that’s just huge in scope, and it manages to cover with tremendous success a truly important life and show us just how this legend was born. Bob Marley was just a man with great instincts and thoughts who simply wanted to bring people together through his music, and who more often than not, in a society where doing so wasn’t easy at all, managed to come out on top.

I actually quite liked it that Mr. Macdonald didn’t go for something experimental or groundbreaking or anything like that in his approach to how he handled this one. Instead, Marley has a very straightforward structure, simply giving us a look, from birth to death, into the life of its subject, using concert footage, music, photographs, and lots of interviews to shine a light on the man. And that’s great that he decided to do it this way, because we can just get into the life of this man as it’s told through his music and the people that knew and loved him the most, and considering this may end up being the only definitive look we get into his life, this more traditional kind of approach is the perfect one.

We get to see how he founded The Wailers, and we get to see him with his family and hear from them, and, of course, we also get a lot of concert footage (some of it previously unreleased), seeing his fame grow really quickly to the point in which he was selling out arenas and becoming a true music superstar. But in the midst of being a rockstar, this film also makes an effort to show just how much of a political figure Bob Marley was, and you see how even as he was touring the world he was always most concerned about what was going on in Jamaica, and we see just how much power he had with the Jamaican people.

It’s great how this film touches upon those subjects in the man’s life; the ones off stage, the ones that showed him as a man that was not only hugely spiritual but that was truly politically involved and that would do literally anything he could in order to get his message to reach the people he wanted it to reach. It’s that ambition that made Bob Marley what he was, the great songs are just something that came out of it. And they’re classic songs we all already know and love, and by using that as a background of sorts and instead focussing on lesser-known stuff, Mr. Macdonald is really making the most out of this rare opportunity and giving us as many angles to the man as we can get. And even at such a lengthy running time nothing here feels as fodder, every archive footage, every interview is essential to what this film is trying to say.

I loved this film, I loved how straightforward it was in its approach to telling us about the life of a true legend. For longtime fans of Bob Marley like me, or for people who have only heard “One Love” or “No Woman, No Cry” and that’s it; it doesn’t matter, absolutely everyone will be able to appreciate this documentary and take something out of it. This is a man who’s influence, both musical and political, were true forces in our world and helped make it a better place. This is the definitive look at his life, made with great love and respect by a talented filmmaker and backed up by the family that shares that famous last name.

Grade: A-

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3 Responses to “[Review] – Marley”

  1. AndyWatchesMovies May 8, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    Very good review – Looks like I need to add this to my ‘to-watch’ list

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