Today: June 20, 2024

Bob Marley: One Love

There has certainly been a noticeable increase in music biopics over recent years. On the one hand it makes good business sense – creating a film around a figure with a large, established fanbase is certainly a safe bet for the box office. But there’s also something universally entertaining about success stories, especially when our hero has faced any sort of adversity. Whether illness, drug addiction, or oppression, we can all get behind a tale that sees demons overcome – and if it’s got a banging soundtrack too, then that can only be a positive. And after Bohemian Rhapsody grossed almost a billion dollars worldwide and won four Academy Awards, everyone wants a piece of the action.

The latest icon to receive the big-screen treatment is reggae legend Bob Marley, who up until now had surprisingly only been the subject of documentaries, and not dramatisation. Filmmaker Reinaldo Marcus Green, whose previous film King Richard was tainted by Will Smith’s very public disgrace during the Academy Awards, now brings us Bob Marley: One Love.

One Love makes the always-appreciated decision to not waste time with the usual rags-to-riches success story, and instead picks up in 1976 when Marley was already an established and celebrated star. What follows, though, is a generic, by-the-numbers biopic. That comes as especially disappointing when you realise The Sopranos alum Terence Winter co-wrote the screenplay…

Indeed, Bob Marley: One Love is a rather bland and unimaginative flick that goes through all of the usual tropes that Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story so accurately lampooned 17 years ago. Even at a tight 100 minutes, the film feels far too long thanks to the lackadaisical pacing. Kingsley Ben-Adir (One Night in Miami…) is great in the titular role, but his performance is not enough to break the film out of its tedious, restrictive chains. 

Where the film does work is, naturally, its soundtrack. Thankfully the film was allowed to use Marley’s recordings, and they are very liberally used throughout. They sound especially powerful in Dolby Atmos, available on the film’s 4K UHD home release. And there’s no denying that the film looks polished and has some beautiful cinematography from Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood). 

Bob Marley: One Love is ultimately just dull. It has a fascinating larger-than-life figure at its centre and a wealth of incredible music, and yet it feels monotonous and tedious. It looks and sounds pretty, sure – particularly in 4K UHD – but the heart and soul is lacking, which for a musician like Bob Marley, is the ultimate sin. Stick with Kevin Macdonald’s definitive 2012 documentary and Marley’s exemplary albums. There’s very little here to recommend. 

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