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The Bang Bang Club

by on August 15, 2011
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Pictures really are worth a thousand words. Each shot tells a story and captures a moment in time to remember forever. “The Bang Bang Club” is the story of four combat photographers who risked their lives day in and day out to capture the truth on film.

The story begins in 1990 when civil war is running rampant in South Africa and Greg Marinovich (Ryan Phillippe) is trying to begin a career as a photographer. While out one day, Greg meets Kevin Carter (Taylor Kitsch), Ken Oosterbroek (Frank Rautenbach) and João Silva (Neels Van Jaarsveld). After seeing the photos Greg gets, the group quickly welcomes him into its inner circle. After a few years of risking their lives for that perfect shot, two Pulitzer Prizes don’t outweigh everything they lose.

“The Bang Bang Club” is an entertaining look at what combat photographers go through to capture history. Just because they don’t have a gun in their hand doesn’t mean they are exempt from the danger. Director Steven Silver does an amazing job at recreating this moment in time. There was so much violence and devastation during that civil war and Silver makes you feel like you are right there in the action. Normally, I’m not a fan of the shaky-cam unless it lends itself to the story, and it makes the film in this case.

The acting is pretty picture perfect. (I have to throw at least one camera pun in or I won’t feel like I’m doing my job.) These photographers went through so much and saw horrors no one could imagine that it was necessary to select a cast that could accurately portray this real-life group. Phillippe is great as Marinovich. His character has a lot of depth, and Phillippe’s portrayal does the character justice. Through so much of the movie, you could feel the pain that hid behind this man’s eyes.

Taylor Kitsch does a pretty good job as Carter. At first, you believe that Carter is a fun-loving guy who lives his life by the bottle. But as the story unfolds, you realize that the drinking is a mask for the pain he bottles inside. Only having seeing Kitsch in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” I can’t say I was expecting too much from him. but he was extremely surprising in the role.

One of his scenes is particularly touching. Carter is doing a Q&A after one of his photographs — a picture he took of a young African girl in the desert with a vulture nearby — wins the Pulitzer Prize. At first, he’s asked simple questions about the picture but then grilled about the girl. Was she OK? Did he help her? Was she still alive? It’s sad to see Carter crucified for something over which he had no control, and Kitsch does a great job with this scene.

The biggest beef with the movie is probably the time it spent on its character development. Marinovich gets the most screen time and while he is intriguing, you’re never given enough time to get know the rest of the “Bang Bang Club.” That is probably the biggest shame because each has his own story to tell.

The visually amazing movie is definitely a must have on Blu-ray, deserving of the highest quality it can get. The special features are slim but great. Silver’s audio commentary is probably the most interesting. To hear him talk about each scene and his choices for what stayed in the final cut and what didn’t is great.

Overall, “The Bang Bang Club” is a thrilling look into the risks a group of friends will take in search of the perfect picture.

Film: 3 Yaps
Extras: 2.5 Yaps

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