Film Review: Crossfire Hurricane [LFF 2012]

on Thursday, October 18, 2012
'Crossfire Hurricane' (UK Release: 18 Oct '12) // Words: Saam Das

The Rolling Stones documentary poster

Fifty years after forming, The Rolling Stones have just announced a new set of concerts for the end of this year. Regardless of anyone's feelings on the music, personnel or indeed, the extravagantly priced new tickets, being in a band for fifty years is an incredible achievement. Similarly, Brett Morgen's documentary 'Crossfire Hurricane' is for fans and non-fans alike, charting the most iconic moments of the band's career.

Morgen is a prolific advert director but has won numerous plaudits for his documentary work, including an Academy Award nomination for 1999's 'On The Ropes'. His style here eschews the conventional talking heads, instead opting to mix voiceover from an interview last year with The Rolling Stones along with a smorgasbord of archive footage, much of it never-before-seen on screen.

'Crossfire Hurricane' is a broad portrait of 'The Rolling Stones', delving deeply only at key moments - understandably so, considering the band's extensive history. Period interviews are used to capture the feeling of the band at each of these moments, while also exploring their reception by the wider world. A reception that has veered from intolerance to mass acceptance.

The footage is masterfully edited together, unsurprisingly layered with hits from the band. The documentary's most powerful moments come when it addresses pivotal events in the career of The Rolling Stones - most notably, the fate of former member Brian Jones and the deadly free concert in Northern California. The chaos of the latter is vivid, with the band hoping for "normality and control", an attitude at odds with their initial anti-establishment views.

'Crossfire Hurricane' may be produced/bankrolled by The Rolling Stones but it is not entirely hagiographic - Mick Jagger admits the band moved to France to benefit from more lenient tax laws, while Keith Richards' spiralling drug addiction is often at the forefront of the film. However, you suspect that is the band's decision not to be shown on camera during their 2011 interview rather than Morgen's creative direction.

The documentary culminates with the Toronto drugs bust of Richards in 1977, before launching into a live performance from that era. The subsequent history of the band is not considered worthy of the documentary, once again possibly at the behest of The Rolling Stones - a disappointment for completists but perhaps welcome in light of their arguable (inevitable) decline.

In such a stellar year for music documentary, 'Crossfire Hurricane' doesn't quite match up to 2012's 'Under African Skies', 'Beware Of Mr Baker', or 'Searching For Sugar Man' but exists as an appropriate testament to the incredible career of The Rolling Stones. The film is an incomplete portrayal but nonetheless, one suitable enough for improving any music fan's historical education.


'Crossfire Hurricane' premieres tonight at the 56th BFI London Film Festival, and is being broadcast live across Europe. American Express is the headline sponsor of the festival, one of the handpicked events that make up the 2012 American Express Preferred Seating programme. For more information visit

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