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Film reviews: Diego Maradona — a new spin on a troubled genius

Record-breaker: A bright-eyed Diego Maradona during his early days at Napoli

THE BIG RELEASE

Diego Maradona

(12A) ★★★★★

‘A LITTLE bit of cheating and a lot of genius’ is how one commentator defines footballer Diego Maradona, qualities of course encapsulated by the Argentine’s notorious goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final. Yet this third gripping film from the Oscar-winning team behind Senna and Amy actually expends relatively few minutes on that ‘hand of God’ moment, instead digging deeper and wider to expose a sensational tale whose eye-opening insights will be revelatory even to footie fans.

The documentary is blessed with a thrilling kick-off. Through a masterful three-minute montage we get the basics of what’s at stake for Maradona when he first arrives at Napoli, the indigent, derided team that he was to turn into champions.

It’s Maradona’s crucial relationship with Naples — the people, the politics, the party scene and the Camorra — that forms the film’s core. That, as much as the player’s bisected sense of self — ‘Diego’ being the warm-hearted Buenos Aires slum kid he started out as, ‘Maradona’ the posturing, flashy, self-destructive persona he constructed to help cope with fame.

As Pelé says of the young Maradona, he may be the greatest player alive ‘but he isn’t psychologically prepared to take on such responsibility’. And it’s the little-boy-lost look in Diego’s eyes, as much as the breathtaking on-pitch action, that will stay with you after watching this. Still, there’s plenty of the latter: this is an illuminating film that captures the power of football like no other, whether it’s the collective euphoria and rapture or the decimating despair.

Director Asif Kapadia adopts his signature style, rejecting talking heads to create an immersive viewing experience drawn from more than 500 hours of never-before-seen footage.

Where this authorised film differs from Amy and Senna is that its subject is still alive, though you almost wouldn’t know that from the way Kapadia terminates his story with Maradona’s professional death: his Icarus-like fall from grace and sordid imprisonment on drugs charges. It’s both criticism and praise to say that at over two hours, this film still feels way too short.

The verdict

Another back-of-the-net masterclass from the makers of Amy and Senna

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese

(15) ★★★★✩

CRAFTED in the downtime from his upcoming Netflix gangster opus, The Irishman, Martin Scorsese and the streaming service join forces for the director’s second Bob Dylan documentary after 2005’s exhaustive No Direction Home.

It’s 1975 and Dylan hasn’t toured since a motorbike accident in 1966. But the Rolling Thunder Revue brings the Tambourine Man together with other freewheeling maestros, including Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell, for an idealistic, year long, US-wide, artistic jamboree.

Even if you’re not a major Dylan fan, it’s hard not to be taken by the live concert footage, with Scorsese letting such classics as Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door play out fully.

The offstage archive material is just as good — Dylan and Allen Ginsberg reading poetry at Jack Kerouac’s grave is a beatnik’s delight — while fresh interviews, ranging from actress Sharon Stone (a Dylan groupie when she was 19) to Dylan himself, illuminate this most enigmatic of performers. Never mind that the Revue was a financial flop, Scorsese’s documentary smartly captures an era where commerce was, like, totally uncool, man. JAMES MOTTRAM

Sometimes Always Never

(12A) ★★★✩✩

HAVING previously made a comedy about allotments (Grow Your Own), writer Frank Cottrell Boyce and director Carl Hunter turn their hands to an equally quintessential British pursuit: Scrabble.

Bill Nighy delivers another gloriously understated turn as heartbroken Alan, an ex-tailor whose eldest son has been missing for years since storming out during a game of Scrabble. As Alan and his remaining, yet emotionally estranged, son (Sam Riley, below) go to identify a body at the morgue, they encounter another grieving couple (Tim McInnerny and Jenny Agutter), who Alan hustles over a Scrabble board. As the dysfunctional family drama plays out, the tensions relax, unlike the deliberately super-stylised production and stilted direction, which repress the quirky script even more than is intended.

Still, despite its frustrations, Sometimes Always Never is a pleasingly eccentric offering that will delight some. And it’s guaranteed to improve your word scores. LARUSHKA IVAN ZADEH

ALSO OUT: MORE NEW RELEASES

The Hummingbird Project

Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård play high-frequency New York traders who cross swords with their former boss (Salma Hayek, pictured) in trying to make their millions from a fibre-optic cable deal. (15)

Men In Black International

There’s a strict embargo on all reviews of this sci-fi action comedy reboot until this afternoon. And given the fearsome size of the guns Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson (pictured) are toting on the posters, we aren’t about to break it. (12A)

Wild Honey Pie!

Beware of any movie bearing ‘!’ This comedy stars Jemima Kirke (aka Jessa from Girls, pictured) as one half of a married millennial couple in Wales who are attempting to paper over their infidelities while staging an outdoor Shakespeare festival. (15)