Sunday, September 14, 2008

Review - Gonzo The Life & Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

A documentary film of the late great Hunter Thompson that spans his life and work including his books and articles written for various news outlets. The film uses stock footage throughout the years of Hunter S. Thompson, film footage from "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and other various films and interviews including "Breakfast with Hunter" that Gonzo had done throughout his years. It includes narration by Johnny Depp and interviews with people that surrounded Thompson throughout his life.

Alex Gibney who brought us "Taxi to the Dark Side" in 2007 directed and pieced together the work of Hunter S. Thompson in a thoughtful, poignant and somber documentary that really gives the viewer a wonderul timeline of Hunter's life. Gibeny does a great job of piecing together stock footage, interviews and personal videos of Hunter and his work to make a very cohesive and moving film. The film had a decent pace that doesn't feel too bogged down (which can happen all too often in documentaries), and really pays homage to Hunter Thompson and his unbashful lifestyle and reporting throughout the years up to his much talked of suicide.

Johnny Depp does a beautiful job narrating the film and provides a real highlight with his almost perfect vocal timings as he reads through some of Hunter's more powerful work. Johnny Depp was a personal friend to Thompson and had previously nailed him in Terry Gilliam's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," so it was more than bitter-sweet that Depp used his voice to bring back to life some of Thompson's best works.

The film does a masterful job of showing Hunter in his various stages of life including some his more pivotal reporting that brought him the critical acclaim he deserved. The piece that was put together on Thompson's work with the Hell's Angels was particularly done with a wonderful vision that showed all sides to the groundbreaking story that essentailly propelled both Thompson and the Hell's Angels into the public's eye. The segment on Thompson's work and impact on politics was absolutely perfect. Gibney did a wonderful job of showing Hunter's impact and getting McGovern and Carter's interviews really added another level of depth to the piece. In retrospect, it was sombering to think just how much a mind like Hunter S. Thompson could add to the difficult political sphere we face today. His insight would be a great asset to generate interest and awareness of the issues we as Americans face.

The film also does a perfect job of illustrating Thompson's, to say the least, wild lifestyle and the people that he considered friends. Thompson was never bashful about his drug use, he instead was very upfront about it. Thompson did countless interviews where he smoked pot or referenced using lsd, speed, heroin or any other drug that would pop into his mind. Gibney again does a great job of really stringing together moving and striking footage to show the most powerful moments of Hunter S. Thompson at his highest of high's and lowest of low's.

Ultimately Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson was a moving documentary and does a perfect job of telling Hunter's story, paying homage to his work, and asking the question if we'd be better served with him still alive reporting and pushing the envelope. The film does leave the viewer in a somber mood by the end with his suicide, although the family tries to paint the pretty picture as if Thompson went out like he wanted to and always talked of. Gibney however leaves the viewer wondering how much impact Thompson could still make today especially with this election looming. Gonzo is a great film for a fan of Hunter or someone who is just becoming aware of this prolific writer. I highly recommend this film.