It Might Get Loud

It Might Get Loud


Reviewed by: Adam Micklethwaite

It Might Get Loud is certainly an intriguing project for a director who made his name in television before going on to be both director and cinematographer on Al Gore’s 2006 environmental crusade, An Inconvenient Truth. Davis Guggenheim’s latest effort is a much less heavyweight affair, focusing upon three seminal rock musicians from the last 40 years and their relationship with that most influential instrument of modern pop and rock music - the guitar.

Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), The Edge (U2) and Jack White (White Stripes and The Ractonteurs) are indisputably successful, influential musicians, but what makes this documentary so effective is the fact that they are also from very different eras, with completely different musical backgrounds and styles. Guggenheim gets excellent mileage from the format by comparing and contrasting their different musical journeys and relationships with the guitar to offer a result which is part biography, part exploration of musical influences and part examination of the hows and whys of their success and their particular brand of rock.

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On the one hand we see the rise and rise of phenomenally accomplished session musician turned self-styled rock god, Jimmy Page, heavily influenced by the early blues rock of his childhood in the Forties and Fifties, who would go on to become the driving force behind the mighty Led Zeppelin. On the other, we have The Edge aka Dave Evans, influenced by the more angular guitar sounds of Seventies punk and prog rock, but equally disillusioned by the way in which these forms of music tended to alienate their own audience.

Whereas Page was a naturally talented musician with an uncanny ability to craft exceptional riffs and solos, The Edge was approaching the guitar from a completely different angle, as a relatively limited musician (especially at the beginning of U2’s career) who maximized his talents by creating a unique signature sound based on an innovative use of amplification techniques, delay and sonic engineering.

The third part of this ensemble piece is, yet again, a completely different kettle of fish, Detroit misfit Jack White, whose passion for early delta blues transformed into the raw energy of White Stripes, a band who came to redefine modern blues rock in the early part of the last decade. Rather than relying on delay and amplification effects like The Edge, White’s version of guitar rock is closer to that of Jimmy Page, but with the twist that he is captivated by the idea of conquering the instrument, preferring to work with the most unsophisticated, out-of-tune guitars and to create something of raw beauty from this chaos.

The cinematography throughout the film is excellent, with an intriguing mix of contemporary documentary, archive footage and original animation, not to mention intelligent, well-constructed visuals which work effectively in tandem with what is being said by the musicians and save us from the stale talking-heads format that is the downfall of so many documentaries. Obviously, it also goes without saying that I love the Led Zep/U2/White Stripes-inspired soundtrack!

This is very much a film for rock aficionados with a penchant for the guitar, and this reviewer makes no apologies for being firmly of this persuasion. Like the majority of music documentaries this is a film which preaches to the converted, rather than seeking to convert the non-believers, but if you do have any interest in guitar rock of the past 40 years then I thoroughly recommend Davis Guggenheim’s fascinating portrait of three men and their guitars, It Might Get Loud. Rest assured, there’s no ‘might’ about it!

Reviewed on: 14 Mar 2009
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The history of the electric guitar from the point of view of Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White.
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Director: Davis Guggenheim

Starring: Jimmy Page, The Edge, Jack White

Year: 2008

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: US

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