The movie adaption of the strongly compelling memoir from war photographers Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva could have gone one of two ways – either a bloated Hollywood-take on war (think Michael Bay) or taken the sophisticated indie route, true to the source. The Bang Bang Club, out now on DVD, thankfully falls into the latter category.
Starring Ryan Phillippe (the new go-to guy for indie dramas) as Marinovich and Neels Van Jaarsveld as Silva, two of four freelance photographers in the mid-90’s who made up the club with their coverage of South Africa chronicling the violence surrounding the election that ultimately put an end to Apartheid and put Nelson Mandela in charge of the country. The four photographers built a reputation for themselves, as well as garnered a few Pulitzers, for going into the middle of gunfights to document this historic time in that region of the world. Along with personal struggles, the film (like the book before it) wades into the moral dilemmas war journalists face about whether to get involved in the tragedy unfolding in front of their camera lenses or simply be there to document them as a silent observer.
Beautifully acted from a powerful script, The Bang Bang Club would surely have roped in a larger audience if given the full Hollywood, big budget treatment, but that would have surely quashed the heart of the film.
The Bang Bang Club/97 Mins./Entertainment One/2011