Macdonald (THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND) gets unprecedented access to the man’s entire existence, with intimate one-on-ones with countless family members, friends, teachers, fellow musicians and everyone in between. The result is a complete picture of Bob Marley, despite his actual presence in only a few interviews and live performances strewn throughout the film. Along the way you learn about the history of Jamaica and the culture and conditions that influenced him, the basic tenets of Rastafarianism and reggae (and why Marley was drawn to it), as well as a detailed progression of every stage of his career before his untimely death. If you’re at all a fan of the reggae star, MARLEY is full of amazing concert footage and fascinating stories that I’m sure have not been shared before this documentary.
The movie also seems to strive for an honest portrayal of its subject matter, especially when it comes to his family. From Marley’s struggle with his absent Caucasian father to his own wives and children, the musician isn’t always put on a pedestal. (In fact, his kids seem fairly critical of his parental skills and infidelity.) You’re also made privy to the political upheaval in Jamaica and Marley’s complicated role in acting as a de facto peacemaker in his homeland. As the film progresses, it’s easy to see the man growing in to a world icon and the implications that brings.
At nearly two and a half hours, MARLEY is extremely detailed and as comprehensive as you could ever want, but it does feel very long. Things move at a slow and relaxed pace, which is appropriate given the star, but definitely felt by the two hour mark. I can’t say exactly what, if anything, I would cut out, but some gentle editing wouldn’t hurt to improve the pacing. Casual fans of the musician might be a bit turned off, but as a viewer with a healthy interest in the subject matter, MARLEY is without a doubt worth it.
Around the World (18:35): From Japan to Zimbabwe, this decent-lengthed feature showcases how influential Marley is to his fans from all reaches of the planet.
Extended Interview with Bunny Wailer (19:01): You get a significant portion of Wailer’s interview that was cut from the movie. Nothing of huge consequence (though you do get some more detail in to Marley’s family ties), but Wailer smokes a carrot at one point.
Children's Memories (10:01): More from Ziggy, Stephen and Cedella Marley on growing up with their father and his musical legacy. I found this the most fascinating part of the doc and would love even more than the ten extra minutes here.
Listening to "I'm Loose" (3:35): Interviewees listen and react to a unique recording of this Marley favorite, which features Marley with his hair down (so to speak).
You also get a Photo Gallery, Theatrical Trailer, XM Interview and Commercials for Jamaica and the film’s soundtrack.
Extra Tidbit: Both Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme were poised to make this movie at one point.