Worth A Look: 21.31%
Just Average: 14.75%
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5 reviews, 31 user ratings
|Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
by Jason Whyte
"Metallica: Some Kind of Monster" is not a documentary about Metallica's music, but rather a look on HOW Metallica's music is made and the forces behind it. Much of their talented work is featured, of course, but the real guts of this brilliant, brutal experience is the mind war between James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, two completely different people that make the most important decisions of the future of Metallica not only as a music source, but as a corporate entity and a fan base. The film goes against the grain of the "talking heads" documentary style and instead focuses on the how and the why of the lives of these people.The film begins around 2001, when Metallica begins work on their latest album "St. Anger", their first album in several years. James Hetfield is the lead singer and guitarist, and is easily comparible to many of the rock gods of bands of this magnitude. He loves the power of Metallica, a band that has been going for over twenty years, and so does his drummer and co-founder, Lars Ulrich. But something is wrong. Their bassist, Jason Newstead, has left due to creative differences with Hetfield, and Bob Rock, the band's producer, fills in.
"Now raise your goblet of rock!"
Bob Rock wants the new album to return Metallica to the days of their rock-fueled origins, but Hetfield and Ulrich aren't the rockers they once were. There's group therapist Phil Towle who is counseling the band (for $40,000 a month!) on their arguments. Ulrich argues that Hetfield's guitar doesn't have enough "stock" which leads to a bitter argument about their ethics of the group. Hetfield, at one point, leaves for treatment of his alcohol abuse, and is gone for nearly a year, leaving Ulrich and guitarist Kirk Hammett as the only working members of Metallica.
The great thing about "Some Kind of Monster" is we're wrapped up in the story as much as the main players are. We quickly understand the situation because, quite frankly, put their money and power aside and they're hard workers just like everyone else, and we've been, in some form, where they were. I've been in working situations with others that I certainly don't agree with, and the result can be extremely difficult. The scenes with James and Lars arguing, alone, has more "action" than any of the recent films that belong in that genre.
Part of the success of the film rests not only on these people, but the fact that the cameras were rolling while they fought, debated and argued all of their problems. We peek into private meetings, watch along with recording sessions and are almost participants in the arguments that appear to last for months. Directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky had full access to the band (they were working together before; Metallica provided songs for both of Berlinger's "Paradise Lost" documentaries) and were originally intending to make a straightforward account of the making of their album, and instead stayed with them all the way until 2003 filming over 1600 hours of footage, right up to where their album finished and they began another tour.
This is normally the part in the review where I would rave about the performances, but since this is a documentary, I will instead talk about the subjects within. Lars Ulrich is one of the best characters I've seen on film this year. We can't nominate the guy for an Oscar, but this guy is a ball of nature and my emotions went so up and down for this guy, from the money he makes selling his paintings to auction to his near-fan killing of his anti-Napster brigade, to the mere image of his father, who is just as stubborn as he is. And Hetfield is equally fascinating, especially in the aftermath of his treatment; his minimal-hour scheduling of working with the group and his emotional turnaround makes it even more difficult on Lars. And while Kirk Hammett doesn't get as much screen time as the others, it's mostly because he is a quiet observer of the action.This is one of the best documentaries I've seen in a long time, if not ever. You don't have to be a fan of Metallica to appreciate this work. The film's energy and insight is relentless and it is probably the first film of this type that has left me with a rush that is normally reserved for action films like "Aliens" or "Raiders of the Lost Ark". Berlinger and Sinofsky have stumbled across a great story, have taken it and run with it, and have provided an endless amount of information that even its 140 minutes cannot hold. That running time is usually reserved for comprehensive Laurent Bourzeau documentaries on DVD's, but we want this to be longer. We want more inside the heads of these interesting people. Here is one of the year's best films.
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originally posted: 08/31/04 00:40:55
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