by Ian Morton
Tapping your feet and singing along to well known songs is hardly a rare thing in the cinema. From musicals through to glam-rock documentaries, the music genre has been responsible for telling the origin stories of music legends as well as charting the downfall of others.
Thankfully, Rocketman joins the ranks of music masterpieces such as Straight Outta Compton, Walk The Line and This Is Spinal Tap – although granted, the last is neither about a real band nor dramatic in any way – as we walk the yellow brick road to success of virtuoso, Elton John.
Knowing the sheer amount of story to tell, the film wastes no time in setting the scene early and giving us a little backstory to the infamous pianist. Told from an almost narrative perspective, an explosive first act sets an infectious tone that delves into the early life of the music legend and simultaneously relishes in the early hits of the talented performer.
With hints of his previous work, director Dexter Fletcher once again shows us his flare for the genre, building on skills learnt on the set of 2013’s, Sunshine On Leith and last year’s, Bohemian Rhapsody (well, the 30% he claims to have directed). The result is a film that feels full of hope, uses the songs as a platform for the plot rather than just a theme for another story and creates a world seen through someone else’s eyes.
A little like Bohemian Rhapsody, there is some element of creative license in terms of the chronology of the music, but this is quickly forgotten as each memorable hit is given its time to shine. Whether you are rocking out to Saturday Night’s Allright (For Fighting) or bobbing along to the movies namesake, Rocketman, it’s a soundtrack that keeps on giving.
Easily the strongest part of the film are the performances of the lead cast. Taron Egerton is coming off the back of a rather flat 2018 but steps out with flamboyant glory in a role that was almost written for him. Given the role was originally meant to be going to Tom Hardy, it really is quite the performance from an actor still trying to find his place in the acting landscape. When further backed up with strong turns from the ever brilliant, Jamie Bell and potential James Bond, Richard Madden, and the result is a film that gets the beat right.
If the film does make a misstep however, it’s only really towards the end. Before this point, the plot successfully treads a fine line that eventually falls on the side of twee. It’s all a little bit too chocolate boxy given the ‘peak behind the curtain’ approach that the film successfully delves into earlier.
Regardless of the little contrivance in the closing act, Rocketman is certainly a film that requires a big screen and an even bigger sound system. Blasting to the heavens on the strength of its performances alone would be enough to garner success, but add the fact a compelling score and enjoyable narrative and the result is a pure cinematic treat.
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