Sunday, April 06, 2008

Movie Review: "Shine a Light"

Starring Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts
Directed by Martin Scorsese

Official Web site

The Rolling Stones have carved out a musical career unsurpassed in rock ‘n’ roll history that couldn’t be done justice in attempting to cover in a two-hour documentary. Director Martin Scorsese recognized that – even saying in a recent interview that the band would likely need a 10- to 12-hour feature to do them justice. That’s clearly not the aim of “Shine a Light,” an expertly crafted and musically powerful concert film that also weaves in documentary footage about the band, which marked 40 years together earlier this decade.

The film opens as Scorsese and his team of cameramen (consisting of numerous Oscar winners and Oscar nominees) are planning out the logistics of filming in the Beacon Theatre, an historic New York City venue, where the Stones are set to play two nights during their “A Bigger Bang” world tour in 2006. Humorously fretting over not knowing the band’s set list and the desire to have swooping cameras in use (to frontman Mick Jagger’s concern), Scorsese doesn’t waste much time getting to the concert. Tightly edited between the band’s two-night performance, which also consisted of a benefit show and birthday party for President Bill Clinton, the band looks to clearly be having a good time here.

Having endured a seemingly endless number of jokes about their age over, say, the past 20 years, many might have forgotten just how good the Stones can actually be in concert. “Shine a Light,” if nothing else, should prove to audiences that these old men can still rock. Featuring guest appearances by Jack White (of The White Stripes), Christina Aguilera and Buddy Guy (getting much respect from the Stones, especially from guitarist Keith Richards), the band isn’t at a point in their career where too many surprises take place on stage.

But perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that a rock ‘n’ roll band has been able to stick together for more than four decades, while still performing to sold-out audiences all over the world. With the numerous cameras on hand capturing the proceedings from practically all angles, this is likely the best-filmed concert of the band there has been, or ever will be. While the rest of the band doesn’t have the physical energy of Jagger (who is a still a veritable dynamo in his 60s), their musical chops are in fine form here, as Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts show that age is not a factor. Sure, the band has probably embraced the cold calculation of corporate rock more than they should have over the past couple of decades. But stripped of all that pretense in “Shine a Light,” for those couple of hours, you can clearly believe that (to paraphrase the Stones) time is on their side.

Grade: A-
(Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, drug references and smoking.)

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