The Bang Bang Club (R16)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner25/06/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 113 mins

Impressively directed, strikingly shot and superbly acted drama that tells an intriguing true story and asks some thought-provoking questions about the nature of journalism.

What's it all about?
Directed by Steven Silver, The Bang Bang Club is based on a true story as recounted in the book by photo-journalists Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva (The Bang Bang Club: Snapshots from a Hidden War). Set in South Africa during the last days of apartheid, the film stars Ryan Phillippe as Greg Marinovich, a newly arrived photo-journalist who quickly wins the respect of his peers (including Malin Akerman as photo editor Robin Comley) when he enters some notoriously dangerous Zulu territory and winds up taking some shocking on-the-scene photos of a brutal killing.

When their photos are published, Greg and three of his colleagues (Taylor Kitsch as Kevin Carter, Frank Rautenbach as Ken Oosterbroek and Neels Van Jaarsveld as Joao Silva) quickly gain a reputation for risking their lives in order to take powerful photographs, which leads a journalist to nickname them The Bang Bang Club. However, the pressure and intensity of their experiences eventually begin to take their toll, particularly when the media start to ask questions about why the photographers didn't do anything to help the people in their pictures.

The Good
The performances are excellent, particularly Kitsch (Gambit in Wolverine), whose character has the most interesting story of the four, a story that includes a descent into drug addiction and becoming the focus of worldwide media attention after photographing a starving little girl being stalked by a vulture in the desert. Phillippe is good too, nailing the South African accent and generating decent chemistry with both Akerman and Kitsch, while there's strong support from both Rautenbach and Van Jaarsveld.

Silver's direction is impressive throughout, particularly in the way the movie recreates actual photographs taken by the group. The film is also strikingly shot, courtesy of cinematographer Miroslaw Baszak, and there are several memorable images, such as Greg and Kevin sharing a joint sitting by the side of a tank against a stunning backdrop.

The Great
The thought-provoking script explores some interesting questions about morality in journalism and provides plenty of material for post-film pub discussion in the process. It's also extremely moving in places and Silver orchestrates a number of excellent scenes, most notably a superb sequence where Phillippe's character crosses a dangerous firing line in order to buy two bottles of Coke (kids, don't try this at home).

Worth seeing?
The Bang Bang Club is an engaging and thought provoking drama that tells an intriguing true story, thanks to impressive direction and strong performances from Phillippe and Kitsch.

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The Bang Bang Club (R16)
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Content updated: 23/02/2020 20:06

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