I love me a good true story movie, always have. To be honest, I'm not completely sure why I am so drawn to true story movies. Perhaps it's because I can then go home and Wikipedia everything and see what was actually true and what was there because it's a movie. The latest true story movie hitting theaters is Killing Bono, which is based on former musician and current music critic Neil McCormick's memoir, which charts his obsessive journey to try and replicate the success of U2, whose members hailed from the same Ireland town as Neil. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I started watching Killing Bono, but this phenomenal tale might just be one of the best movies of the year.
The great thing about Killing Bono is the duality of audiences it appeals to. When I interviewed star Ben Barnes for the movie, he made the interesting observations that both fans of U2, and haters of U2 will dig this movie, and he couldn't be more right. This isn't a U2 documentary, and it doesn't center on the band in any way, although the band and their front man Bono (Martin McCann) obviously play an important part in the movie. Killing Bono is really a fantastic glimpse inside the music business, told from a unique perspective: the guy who can never seem to get that one big break. The story starts out in Ireland, with Neil McCormick (Ben Barnes) and his brother Ivan (Robert Sheehan) trying to get a band off the ground. What they don't know is that some of their classmates are about to form what will be one of the biggest pop bands in music history: The Hype.... which they later changed to U2. When U2 hits it big, Neil sets off on his own musical journey, determined to become bigger and better than his former classmates, despite his considerable lack of talent, with his brother Ivan at his side... even though Neil is holding back a secret regarding Ivan and U2.
All of the performances here are top-notch, all the way down the board. Ben Barnes, who is best known as Prince Caspian in the Chronicles of Narnia movies, shines in ways we've never seen him shine before as Neil McCormick. His boundless determination mixed with the uncanny ability to make the wrong decisions, and a lot of just plain bad luck, is incredibly entertaining to watch. One of the several hilarious scenes in the movie involves Neil and his band, booking their first really big gig... which happens to be the same day as the gigantic Live Aid concert, which was watched by nearly 2 billion people worldwide. Throughout the movie, you can't help but feel bad for the guy, but you also can't help but laugh at his antics and misfortunes, because, really, he brings it on himself. There is some validity in his attempts to make it on his own, without any help whatsoever from U2, even though they constantly offer their assistance. Robert Sheehan is fantastic as Neil's younger brother, Ivan, and Martin McCann delivers a wonderful and surprisingly accurate performance as Bono. The lovely Krysten Ritter also shines as Gloria, who ends up falling for Neil, and we get a wonderfully quirky performance out of Pete Postlethwaite, which is sadly his final performance.
Director Nick Hamm and writers Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais, and Simon Maxwell craft a terrific story here. The great thing is it's equal parts comedy and drama and, unlike most dramatic comedies, both comedy and drama elements are top-notch. Neil's antics are both hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time, and you're constantly glued to the screen to see what he'll do next.
Killing Bono will have you smiling from minute one until the credits roll. Every performance here is fantastic and it gives us a unique view of the music business, from both the successful and unsuccessful points of view. Fans of U2, haters of U2, and everyone in between will love this compelling drama.