Title: Killing Bono
Director: Nick Hamm
Starring: Ben Barnes (‘The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,’ ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’), Robert Sheehan (‘Season of the Witch,’ TV’s ‘Misfits’) and Martin McCann (TV’s ‘The Pacific’)
Modern society often encourages people to celebrate, and strive for, celebrity status and continued success. Unfortunately, not everyone can obtain high levels of exceptional success, as seen in the new comedy ‘Killing Bono.’ The film, which was based on musician Neil McCormick’s memoir ‘Killing Bono: I Am Bono’s Doppelganger,’ expertly shows the struggles the Irish musician faced in launching his career, as he’s always in Bono and U2’s shadow. Like many people in the world, Neil is fascinated with the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, and will do anything to keep his dream alive.
‘Killing Bono’ follows Neil (played by Ben Barnes), a young Irish songwriter determined to become a successful singer and live the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. After he loses the chance to become the singer for the school band, The Hype, to his friend Paul Hewson (portrayed by Martin McCann), he forms his own band with his brother Ivan (played by Robert Sheehand). But as The Hype rises to fame and changes its name to U2, with Paul renaming himself Bono, the group leaves Neil and Ivan behind in Ireland.
Determined to become an even bigger success than U2, the brothers move to London, but are blinded by the injustices of the music industry. The little success they do obtain is always dwarfed by the achievements of their old school rivals. As his music dreams crash and burn, Neil feels his failure is directly linked to Bono and U2’s success.
Director Nick Hamm expertly portrayed a story that appeals to everyone’s determination and struggle to become successful in their chosen career. However, Neil and Ivan perfectly balance each other in their personalities and how they handle their failure, compared to U2’s success. Neil encompasses the mentality that every time Bono and the rest of his U2 friends succeed, his own aspirations and goals die; he feels that the world won’t embrace two rock ‘n’ roll bands from Dublin, especially since the bands are friends.
Neil resents the success U2 has obtained on their own, and the fact that he wasn’t chosen for the band. He foolishly believes that accepting help from his old classmates would diminish any success his would obtain. He seemingly revels in the local, small following they garner in London, even though he dreams for bigger success.
Barnes was able to successfully portray Neil as being the antagonist with a sympathetic, passionate side. While he knows he’s a good musician, he allows his insecurities of competing against Bono consume his life. He no longer solely plays music because he enjoys it; he also does it to rival his friend and prove that he can succeed on his own. Viewers will object to Neil’s spiteful behavior to U2, but will understand that he’s envious of their success.
Ivan, however, maturely balances his brother’s juvenile and destructive ways, particularly when it relates to advancing their careers and accepting help from Bono. Ivan appreciates that Bono and their old school friends offer them help in obtaining a record deal and opening for them at various concerts. While Barnes is billed as ‘Killing Bono’s lead actor, Sheehand naturally draws viewers to his portrayal of Ivan, as he realistically emotionally develops the character.
Initially, Sheehand portrays Ivan as being naive and willingly accepts what Neil tells him at face value. But as the film progresses, he sees that his brother routinely lies to him about important aspects of his career, such as him also not being accepted into U2. Ivan realizes that while he still loves Neil, he has to take his career into his own hands, and accept the help Bono offers him, to further his musical dream.
Barnes and Sheehand were both perfectly cast in their respective roles, as they both showcased how the failure to find success will differently affect two people who are so close to each other. As Neil, Barnes proved that some people are so jealous of their friends’ fame, they become blind sighted by their resentment and sabotage their own chances of success. Sheehand, meanwhile, portrays Ivan as being humble and grateful for the help Bono offers him, and doesn’t let anything get in the way of achieving his goals. While not everyone can relate to the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle Neil and Ivan are introduced to, viewers will definitely relate to both the envy and drive the brothers experience on their road to success.
Written by: Karen Benardello