Milius (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner31/10/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 95 mins

Entertaining, informative and enjoyably anecdote-heavy trawl through the life and career of writer-director John Milius that clearly illustrates his place in film history and examines why he's such a divisive figure.

What's it all about?
Co-directed by Zak Knutson and Joey Figueroa, Milius is a documentary portrait of maverick writer-director John Milius. Telling the story through a combination of talking heads, archive interviews, audio clips and photographs, the film traces Milius' life and career, from his rejection from the Marines due to asthma (which casts his love of war movies in an intriguing light) to his stint at USC film school alongside friends and fellow students George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola, to his early screenplay successes (uncredited work on Dirty Harry, selling his script for The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean for an unprecedented sum) and first directing job on Dillinger, before larger, more celebrated career moves such as his Oscar-nominated script for Apocalypse Now, his contribution of Quint's monologue in Jaws or directing Conan the Barbarian.

The film then examines what amounts to Milius' fall from grace, blaming both his avidly right-wing politics (which reached its apotheosis with the controversial release of Red Dawn in 1984) and the cartoonish, gun-toting, ridiculously macho persona he created for himself (close friends Lucas and Spielberg testify that that's not the real John) that spawned possibly apocryphal stories such as him pulling a gun on a studio executive. Finally, the film catches up with Milius today, recovering from a severe stroke that occurred in the middle of a potential comeback, following the success of TV series Rome.

The Good
Knutson and Figueroa have assembled a veritable Who's Who of Hollywood for the talking heads, including Milius himself (in extensive archive interviews) and the likes of George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Oliver Stone and Clint Eastwood. Needless to say, Milius' contemporaries provide a number of terrific anecdotes, such as Milius suggesting Dustin Hoffman for Conan the Barbarian after their first choice of Arnold Schwarzenegger was rejected by the studio, Milius' own explanation of where the title for Apocalypse Now came from or exerting his authority as director on personal project Big Wednesday to clear everybody out of the water so he could go surfing on his own.

The Bad
The number of additional scenes that occur during the closing credits (including John Goodman commenting on his Big Lebowski character's similarities to Milius) suggest that the makers had a much longer film in mind and it occasionally feels truncated in places. There's also a disappointing lack of illustrative clips and the quality of some of the footage makes it seem better suited to the small screen than the cinema.

Worth seeing?
Entertaining, informative and ultimately moving, Milius is an enjoyable, well researched portrait of a larger than life character that will make you want to rewatch Conan The Barbarian. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 22/07/2018 08:07

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