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25 May 2012 Edition

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Bob Marley: Gripping biopic of a reggae revolutionary

Movie review

His relevance on a global scale is properly reflected. His political impact is approached with honesty and depth.


Director: Kevin MacDonald

Cast: Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley, Jimmy Cliff 

144 mins (PG-13)

Review by Conor Maskey

I WAS SLIGHTLY apprehensive settling down to watch the much-anticipated Marley with Seán and Gill – not just close friends but reggae lovers.

You see, Bob Marley entered my world at the tender age of 14.  I’d recently fell in with a great group of lunatics from my north Belfast secondary school and was feeling well on the way to becoming an assured and wise young man (little did I know!).

At the time this unique form of music – delivered with Marley’s distinctive voice – entered my underdeveloped ears and exploded through my body, delivering one of those eureka moments that rests in the eternal memory.

Kevin McDonald’s film doesn’t disappoint one bit.

From Bob’s early days in Nine Mile St Anne Jamaica to his intriguing parental background (a 50-year-old plantation overseer white father and a 16-year-old native-Jamaican black mother), his initial enthusiasm for music, the mistake that led to reggae music, the origins of Rastafarianism, the attempt on his life by an unknown gunman, the illness that eventually stole him from us . . . This brilliant film covers everything – and in great style.

His relevance on a global scale is properly reflected. His political impact is approached with honesty and depth.

But what about the music?

From start to finish, this film grips your soul with its soundtrack. 

In no particular order, tracks such as Simmer Down, War, Lively Up Yourself, Coming In From The Cold, No Woman No Cry – and more – do the job of guiding you passionately through an enjoyable 2 hours 14 minutes.

Highlights of the film include the revelation that Marley and The Wailers were forced in the very early days to sing in a graveyard to the ‘Duppy’ (ghost or spirit), to exorcise their fear of performing  – obviously the inspiration for the ever-lasting tune Duppy Conqueror.

But we also must tip our hats to Bob Marley’s ganja-headed cousin, Sledgo, who – as if he was reminiscing at a Sinn Féin Ard Fheis – tried to convince us that him and Bob’s grandmother lived to 136 years old.

Relax, absorb and enjoy a magnificent account of one of life’s top-class troubadours. Seán, Gill and myself did!


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