U2: Rattle and Hum

Review No. 391


The Bottom Line: Listen to the music instead.

Directed by: Phil Joanou
U2: Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr.
Also Featuring: B.B. King, Phil Joanou

Distributed by Paramount Pictures in Ireland on October 27, 1988, and in the United States on November 4, 1988. Produced in English by the United States. Runs 98 minutes. Rated PG-13 by the MPAA (profanity).

U2: Rattle and Hum was watched on January 15, 2013.

“I want to run
I want to hide
I want to tear down the walls
That hold me inside
I want to reach out
And touch the flame
Where the streets have no name”
–“Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2

I’ve been a fan of U2 since I was in fifth grade, the same year the Irish rock band released their most recent album, No Line on the Horizon. Upon visiting Canada the following summer, the fondest memory I brought back was seeing their 3-D concert film U2 3D at an IMAX theater. It was like being at an actual concert.

U2: Rattle and Hum was released in 1988, a year after the band’s North American tour, during which it was filmed. It’s saddening to think that I could have just as easily put in one of U2’s records while doing something else, and enjoyed that much more. The film presents very little which is actually worth a feature-length documentary.

Half of Rattle and Hum is composed of interview footage. The interviewer–director Phil Joanou–doesn’t seem to have the slightest clue of what to say; therefore, neither does the band. The questions start at those such as “How much does this film cost to make?” and scarcely grow and less generic. Actually, that was Bono who asked that one. He and the gang just sit there and stare off during much of these scenes like a quartet of dead horses. These scenes and other miscellaneous, all the while pointless moments take up half the film, mind you. By the end…you still haven’t found what you’re looking for.

If you enjoy generic music documentaries, you’ll love Rattle and Hum. The documentary is beyond underwhelming and unoriginal. The concert scenes are well filmed in magnificent, grainy black-and-white. I’ll give it that. Just as well made are the vivid color scenes. I’ll give it that, too. The movie does have its moments. Why couldn’t Bono introduce every scene like he introduced the song “Sunday Bloody Sunday”? At the core, the “behind-the-scenes” narrative goes into such irrelevant territory, the probabilities of pleasing fans is strictly limited to those who live and breathe the band.

Now, my fellow U2 aficionados, listen to The Joshua Tree straight through, as well as selections from War and The Unforgettable Fire. Hell, U2 released the entire live soundtrack that is featured in U2: Rattle and Hum, which is all you really need. You pick the preferable one, but both surpass the enjoyment of the film itself, which is, for the most part, quite low. You’re welcome.



6 thoughts on “U2: Rattle and Hum

  1. As a concert movie, it looks and sounds great but there’s no substance and you almost feel like you have no idea who these people are. Now, we know everything about Bono, the Edge, and “the others”, but back in those days, I would have been really pissed. Good review.

    • Oh God! For a split second, I just imagined myself alive in the ’80s, watching Rattle & Hum. It’d probably be lucky to earn a D-minus, exploiting just about EVERYTHING the band does together–beyond touring–and not giving us a single bit of useful knowledge. :/

    • I, actually, have owned the soundtrack album “U2: Rattle and Hum” for about three or four years now. I’m not sure what will happen if I pull it off my shelf again: should I fear having to think back to the lazy movie version? Or will I have forgotten there was a film version that even existed? Hmm…

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