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Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends) Reviewed By John Tatlock
John Tatlock , February 13th, 2017 10:47

Against all the odds, tonight's HBO documentary on the Paris Bataclan terror attack is a joyous and life-affirming thing, says John Tatlock. Contains mild spoilers

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In February of 2016, Eagles of Death Metal frontman Jesse Hughes attracted criticism over comments in a 20-minute interview with French television station iTélé. Hughes, a second amendment advocate and NRA member, was asked if his views on gun control had changed in the wake of the ISIS-arranged massacre that had occurred at his band's show at Paris's Bataclan venue, just three months earlier.

"Did your French gun control stop a single fucking person from dying at the Bataclan?" he responded. "And if anyone can answer yes, I’d like to hear it, because I don’t think so. I think the only thing that stopped it was some of the bravest men that I’ve ever seen in my life charging head-first into the face of death with their firearms.

"And I hate it that it’s that way. I think the only way that my mind has been changed is that maybe that until nobody has guns everybody has to have them.

"Because I’ve never seen anyone that’s ever had one dead, and I want everyone to have access to them, and I saw people die that maybe could have lived, I don’t know."

In cold black and white text, this reads like an absurd macho posture; a fantasy of a wild west saloon bar shoot-out transplanted to a rock gig, with an unlikely army of pleasant middle class Parisian alt-rock fans bringing bloody retribution to the terrorists. Furthermore, these are generally unpopular ideas in the liberal-leaning world of music, and public feeling towards Hughes turned noticeably colder overnight.

Director Colin Hanks's film opens with footage of the show just before the attack, but cuts almost immediately to the beginning of the iTélé interview. Hughes, still visibly traumatised, is asked if he has a message for any of the survivors who were present. He briefly glances at the camera, and then resumes his shell-shocked thousand-yard stare into the middle distance, struggling for a response.

Shots of Hughes, lost for words and in considerable distress, become an uncomfortable and familiar sight over the next 85 minutes. The film spends the first third of its running time explaining the close, fraternal relationship between Hughes and Eagles co-founder Josh Homme, stretching back to high school in Palm Desert.

They make an unlikely pair, Homme a calm, urbane, 6'4", seemingly unflappable mountain of a man, and Hughes a skinny, twitchy, emotional, eccentric. Cutting back and forth between the two, we are told about their early lives and the events that led to the founding of the band. This might initially seem beside to the point to non-fans looking for material on the terror attacks, but it turns out to be an inspired move.

Eagles Of Death Metal's basic shtick has always been to embrace the utter ridiculousness of rock and roll, while at the same time performing it with utter sincerity. And this apparent contradiction, we see, is an outgrowth of Hughes's personality. He is a born entertainer, driven by a deep and abiding belief in the power of guitars and drums played really fucking loud.

And that's it. In no other parallel universe would a figure like Hughes be called upon to come up with a public response to a terrorist atrocity, and he is, unsurprisingly, not well equipped to do so. Because, well, who is? This is not to suggest he isn't intelligent or thoughtful - he's both of those things - but he's also just a guy who took to the stage in Paris on a November evening expecting to play his guitar really fucking loud, do a bit of screaming and shouting and jumping up and down, and get on the bus and head to the next town.

After taking its time to get to the grisly main event, the film begins to weave in interview clips with survivors from the audience. There's almost no footage of the attack, but from the harrowing eyewitness accounts, this is not something anyone would ever want to see.

The overlapping descriptions from band, crew, and audience members really bring home the "terror" part of the abstract term "terror attack". This middle third of the film gives its interview subjects equal weight, and begins to become less a film about Hughes and his band, and more one about the appalling shared experience of all present, and their various attempts to come to terms with it.

Hughes in particular, though, seems haunted not only by what he saw, but also by a sense of responsibility to the audience and the rest of the band. Of course, he was powerless to do anything, and he does obviously understand this. But while I disagree entirely with his stance on gun control, I can see how experiencing such powerlessness in the face of such violent malevolence could potentially harden someone's position on the question.

For a survivor to dwell on ways the attackers could have been prevented from claiming 89 lives inside the venue and dozens more elsewhere, is psychologically hard to resist. And however much I disagree with his conclusions, I find it impossible to feel anything but sympathy for him.

We eventually see the footage of the notorious gun control interview, and observing Hughes haltingly splutter his words out while fighting back tears casts it in a whole new light. He's still wrong, by my reckoning, but I can't make myself judge him harshly. This experience should have never been in the cards for this humorous, giddy oddball, and it has cast a long shadow on him.

The final third of the film documents the band's return to play in Paris, three months after the attack, with any survivors who wished to attend invited along for free. And against all the odds, it's a joyous and life-affirming thing. As with the rest of the film, you don't need to be an Eagles fan to find yourself punching the air. Watching the band and the audience get this moment of delayed catharsis is wonderful to behold, and a righteous middle finger raised in the direction of death-cult wannabe theocrats everywhere.

Eagles Of Death Metal - Nos Amis airs on HBO tonight [February 13]

Piet Sloane
Feb 13, 2017 12:01pm

Not mentioned in this review (or any other I've read of this movie) are Trump-lover Hughes' comments directly implicating the Muslim security staff at the Bataclan in the massacre, which would seem to undermine this article's description of him as "intelligent and thoughtful."

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amendment1
Feb 13, 2017 12:10pm

thanks piet.

those were exactly my first thoughts after reading this review as well.

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John Tatlock
Feb 13, 2017 12:58pm

I wanted to stick to the chronology of the film, and that stuff came later. Suffice to say, I think he's wrong on that too.

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BSE
Feb 13, 2017 1:47pm

In reply to Piet Sloane:

Yes, thanks for making that important point Piet. My level of sympathy for the bloke greatly diminished with his idiotic statements.

Think I will skip this doc.

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Grim Weeper
Feb 13, 2017 1:52pm

Know nothing about their music but his views are generally spot on and aligned with the majority of our populaces, whether Soros` muppets like it or not.

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Dante
Feb 13, 2017 1:59pm

Wow Piet!!!! Do you think that maybe after what happened that night that Hughes is maybe a bit traumatised....???
I mean I don't know how many terrorist massacres you have survived but it probably messes with your head a bit.....???
But you know best right....

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Ryan
Feb 13, 2017 2:35pm

In reply to Dante :

Well one can express sympathy for the man and all those in attendance and still disparage the ideas Hughes espouses. Furthermore, his comments about the security staff are very much in line with his worldview prior to the attack. He has expressed borderline Alex Jones-isms for years now. The world is complicated like that. And yes Soros paid me millions to comment here.

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John Tatlock
Feb 13, 2017 2:51pm

In reply to Ryan:

I found myself thinking about this a lot while watching the film:

89 people were killed, about another hundred very seriously injured, another couple of hundred less critically so, and the remaining 1,000+ of the audience utterly traumatised.

Now, any morally normal person will find themselves feeling great sympathy for all those people as a first instinct. However, just given those numbers, you can take it as a given that a significant number of them will hold views you don't like.

Should, then, your first instinct be distrusted in this case? I would say not, myself.

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Piet Sloane
Feb 13, 2017 3:02pm

In reply to Grim Weeper:

Not sure what majority you're talking about, Grim, given that Trump lost the majority vote.

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Glenn Bransfield
Feb 14, 2017 1:45am

Pure treason.These clowns trying to pass off this deception as a real event.What a joke.

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La Poets
Feb 14, 2017 6:15am

Jesse Hughes is a dangerous right wing who loves guns and arms.

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jules
Feb 14, 2017 2:56pm

In reply to La Poets:

fucking LOL! dangerous right wing....
yeah just like all those other dangerous right wingers out there beating and shooting and stabbing people right now during "peaceful protests" ... oh hold on...

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QuietTR
Feb 16, 2017 3:37pm

This was a riveting look at one of the most senseless acts of violence in recent memory. As a Queens of the Stone Age fan I found the backstory of Hughes & Homme to be a fascinating peek behind the curtain of one of my favorite artists (Homme). Hughes is equal parts hilarious and terrifying but given the circumstances, I wonder, who wouldn't be? I think at one point he mentions this experience making him feel like a raw nerve. I suppose, in this instance, the worst could come out of us all. Especially those of that are unpolished, uncouth, and not made for the harsh political spotlight of television news, but for the stage where the only thing that matters is your pulse. Am I condoning his comments in any way? Of course not. But he is genuine, and not pulling any punches. I'll give him that. Hughes is a raw nerve throughout, exposed and twitchy. Hanks was smart to frame it as he did, as a story of two friends, diametrically opposed in many ways, but still friends, still there for one another. This, I believe, helped to humanize Hughes a bit, and to bring the situation down to the personal level. A tragedy, the likes of which I hope to never personally encounter. But if I do, I hope I have friends like Homme, and the many fans interviewed, to help see me through.

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todd
Feb 18, 2017 12:19pm

i remember a time when rock stars were raw, wild, silly, un-tamed and would say and do shit that would make most people turn their heads. now thats all seen as uncool.
consumers are goody two-shoes, and want their rock stars nice and sterile. no bad words, questionable opinions or silly antics. boo hoo.

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K
Feb 18, 2017 3:16pm

"Because I’ve never seen anyone that’s ever had one dead."

Well, the terrorists had guns and they are dead now....

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Lexi
21 hours ago

I watched this last night and came away from it with a great deal of sympathy for Jesse and the band. What a horrible horrible thing they had been through.
I also found the friendship between Jesse and Josh incredibly heartwarming. Real true friendship is a beautiful thing.

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