I like biopics. I really do. I know they dramatize the elements of someone’s life, but I also find the stories (and even the skeletons of their stories) to be quite inspiring. Even if the film focuses on someone I am not at all familiar with. In the case of Killing Bono, new wave musician, Neil McCormick, whose band could have potentially been as big as U2. Only a few small things got in the way. The music was not that good, a massive ego, and a shit ton of pride. Killing Bono is adapted from Neil McCormick’s 2003 book of the same name, and the ride he took (and the ride he ALMOST took) make for one hell of an interesting story of famous friends, falls from grace, and how family will accept us no matter how bad we screw up. Also, who on Earth HASN’T thought about killing U2 front man Bono at some point? This film merits a viewing on that premise alone.
Dude on left is immortal. Dude on right is a Prince. Only the nerdiest of nerds will understand this caption.
Let me start this whole thing off by saying just how different the book is from the movie. The film takes some big liberties with the story in an attempt to make it more palatable on the big screen. Knowing that takes nothing away from how entertaining the movie is, but there are certain scenes when that will be glaringly obvious. Regardless, it is a fun journey, and one that will make you feel a little less terrible about some of the awful choices you have made in your own life. I will do the unthinkable and begin this article with a trailer. I usually save to for the middle, but I think the trailer can say more than I can at this point and do a great job of letting you know the tone of the film.
Please don’t pull the “I hate U2 so I don’t want to see movie” crap. There is next to no U2 music at all. That is a crutch used by lazy people to not have to see movies they know they may like
The film follows the exploits of Neil McCormick and his brother Ian, as they were trying to make a name for themselves in the music business. The problem being, their good friend Bono was starting a band at the same time. As I am sure most of you know, U2 is a household name, and Shook Up (the McCormicks’s brothers band) is a band no one remembers. That, alone, sort of tells you how this story goes. Here, peep some of their music to see how (um, awful) they really are.
See, they kind of sucked.
The movie follows the exploits of Neil as he goes from making terrible decision to making terrible decision. You see, as Bono grew and U2 got more famous and famous, they actually kind of tried to bring Neil and his brother along for the ride. As a matter of fact (though the movie dramatizes this), it is said Neil started the band SPECIFICALLY out of jealousy because Bono wanted Ian to play guitar for U2. Neil told him that Ian couldn’t, but never told Ian. Think about this for a minute. What would you do if you found out you could have been in one of the biggest bands in the world, but one of your family members kept it from happening? I will be honest, I adore my family, but if that were me, blood would be shed. The thing is, that is just the TIP of the iceberg regarding Neil McCormick’s bad decisions he made for all the people around him. Okay, you know I like being vague, so now I am going to talk about performances rather than plot.
This is the real Neil with the real Bono. And we wonder why he wanted to kill him. Wait, no we don’t.
First off, Neil is played by Ben Barnes, who does a remarkable job of making you actually like this guy who, for all intents and purposes, you should hate. His decision making could be called selfish at best, and the toll that took on those around him was pretty shitty. Next up, we have his brother Ian, played by one of my favorite TV actors of all time, Robert Sheehan (from the criminally underrated Misfits) who is given more of a background role (which is actually a shame considering how damn good he is), but he works well at making the audience sympathize with the shitty situation his brother forced him into.
Finally, we have the performance that REALLY floored me in this film. Martin McCann as Bono.
The man may only be in the actual film a few times, but my God, you will not be able to find the actor at all inside the Bono. He is so convincing (especially during his Joshua Tree days) that you will feel like you are watching Bono in a movie about Bono. It is a surreal and brilliant portrayal of the egotistic rocker, and McCann deserved FAR more credit than he got.
Looks like him, acts like him, and sounds like him.
I also would be a fool not to mention that this film was actor Pete Postlethwaite’s last ever film. If you don’t think you know the name, you definitely know the face and his body of work. I would sit here and begin listing his movies, but we would all be here for another 1000 words. The man is a legend in film, and though his part is very limited, it is nice to see he got some screen time before his sad passing. Also, some really funny scenes and a fitting final smile from a man who made us smile so much.
I love this movie and I love this man.
One final thing I want to mention about Killing Bono is the fact that they needed some music, and knew that Shook Up’s repertoire of songs was not at all that memorable, so they made an original soundtrack (with songs written by Irish singer songwriter Joe Echo) and those songs were actually played and sang by Robert Sheehan and Ben Barnes. I will even go so far as to tell you the song Where We Wanna Be has steadily climbed up many of my personal playlists. It is just a great, high energy song with that builds to a anthemic chorus that somehow manages to be a great song, even though it was written for that exact reason. Rock at its most ironic, I think. But damn if it aint catchy as hell.
Yes, that really is these two actors singing and playing. Nuts, huh?
I will admit, by the end it all gets a little bat shit crazy and does tend to deviate quite a bit from the book, but the whole thing is a really good time, despite all the bad decisions and awkward moments fueled by Neil McCormick’s bad decisions. Wait, tons of bad decisions and a shit ton of regret? Come to think of, that is kinda what rock n’ roll and being in your twenties is all about. Well played, Killing Bono. Well played.