Satirical and highly ironic. These are just two of the many superior adjectives that could describe Nick Hamm’s latest indie motion picture “Killing Bono”. Headed by the highly agreeable Ben Barnes (Dorian Gray, Prince Caspian) and the jewel eyed “Misfits” player Robert Sheehan, this unforgettable story of a band that never quite broke out of the crowd is an enthralling, hilarious and original experience.
I was relieved to discover that the advertisers had not made the fatal flaw of putting every good line in the previews, and more than a little offended that the Herald only awarded the production two stars for their efforts. It is in fact, an adaptation of the 2004 book “Killing Bono – I Was Bono’s Doppelganger” by narrator and writer Neil McCormack, played by Ben Barnes in the screenplay. Neil McCormack (Barnes) is undoubtedly the anti-hero of the work, displaying the cardinal sins of jealousy and pride as his prime motivations for pursuing a musical career.
The McCormack brothers – Neil and Ivan (Robert Sheehan) – contemporaries of would-be U2 star Paul Hewson (aka Bono), are desperate to break into the rocker scene, but when Bono alludes to wanting Ivan in his band, Neil selfishly refuses to let his sibling go without him, and Ivan is lead to believe that U2 didn’t want him. Neil’s promise to Ivan that their own band would “knock U2 off the stage” becomes an eleven-year obsession for the protagonist in a journey of harsh lessons and self-discovery that doesn’t fail to extort a chuckle at every turn.
As an audience member there wasn’t a moment when I didn’t feel utterly entertained, and that wasn’t just because of the pretty faces on screen. None-the less in the 114 minutes of cinema time, I, on more than one occasion, found myself wondering, where is this all going? As you can imagine, with such an aggressive title, one’s expectations are peaked rather high and anyone intending to visit the cinema for the purpose of viewing this very film should bear in mind that the story is incredibly intricate; while Neil McCormack’s green-eyed envy may be plain to see for all, the events which unfold over the film’s time period are far from predictable. Now I don’t want to give the game away, but I will say that part of the magic of the production itself is in the way you feel the passing of time.
Barnes is an actor who always performs to the highest calibre, on this occasion with an almost impeccable Irish accent, however it was Robert Sheehan’s portrayal of Ivan that stole my heart for the duration of the movie. Excluded from the biggest opportunity of his career, he loyally follows his brother’s wild promise to create a band that is bigger and better than U2, getting involved in all manner of drinking, drugs, and sexual enterprises – as all rock-stars do – with the innocent enthusiasm of youth. His performance was wonderful, and shouldn’t fail to propel him into mainstream stardom.
The film was not lacking cinematically either, with great use of sound, lighting and camera angles to create the personal and detailed account, along with a fantastic series of sets from the sparse public-school gymnasium, to the vibrant party locations of the rich and famous. There is also an opening panorama of Dublin city, to give the film that home grown edge. Most of all I was impressed by the costumes, the changes in the pair’s fortunes mimicked by their change in wardrobe which never fails to embody that underlying sense of “out of the ordinary”.
I went to see this film not because I am a great fan of U2, or out of a particular affinity with indie cinema, but simply because it had a good cast, and sounded a bit quirky. I had few expectations, and sat in a cinema with four other people (yes I did know one of them) to watch the spectacle. By the end of the film I was utterly thrilled, and experiencing that strange state of elevation one gets when they know they’ve encountered something truly great. I seriously recommend this movie for one of the most entertaining life-lessons you will possibly ever have.