THE DOCUMENTARY “Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends)”
WHEN | WHERE 10:03 p.m. Monday on HBO
THE GRADE B
WHAT IT’S ABOUT California band Eagles of Death Metal was in the middle of a set at the Bataclan theater in Paris on the night of Nov. 13, 2015. Then the shooting began. A terrorist attack left 89 dead in the theater. This film covers the years of the band’s formation, and success — and its deep ties to a founding band member, Josh Homme. The rest covers the attack and its aftermath.
MY SAY Jesse Hughes is the frontman of an excellent, hard-driving, hard-rocking band called Eagles of Death Metal. Homme had been frontman of some better-known bands, like Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss and supergroup Them Crooked Vultures. This film, directed by Colin Hanks, is essentially the story of their lifelong friendship as it revolved around the night of the attack. It will also be immediately self-evident that this film offers too much information and background about these friends for the average viewer. The first half-hour alone plays like an extended episode of “Making the Band,” with every twist, turn, triumph and setback chronicled since high school. The initial and purely unintentional impression is thus left that the real elephant in this particular room — the night of Nov. 13, 2015 — is being ignored.
So, if you count yourself an average viewer as opposed to “passionate fan,” watch “Nos Amis” on either HBO Go or HBO Now, then skip to the 30-minute mark, where the elephant is finally addressed and the horror begins. Both Hughes and bandmate Dave Catching said they rushed offstage when the shooting started, then were forced to recross the stage to get to another exit. They then froze in place, witnessing the carnage until the shooters reloaded. Both hid in parts of the Bataclan — Catching in a bathroom and Hughes off a hallway — and both narrowly escaped death. According to Hughes, when one of the shooters knocked the barrel of his gun against a door frame, he had just enough time to duck behind a door that then slammed shut under a barrage of fire. Bullets just missed the back of his head.
“Nos Amis” does reveal a deeply, savagely wounded Hughes, however. At the request of Bono, the band returned to Paris a few weeks later to perform in a defiant concert, then again in February 2016. Hughes is a veteran performer, so the stage was not the place to reveal those particular emotions. He revealed them for this film, and especially for an interview on French TV, parts of which are excerpted here.
Wounded — and also apparently defiant: After the attacks, Hughes seemed to blame security personnel at the Bataclan for allowing the attacks to happen. His comments were controversial and infuriated the management of the Bataclan. None of this is even mentioned in the film, which means at least one elephant has been ignored.
BOTTOM LINE Emotional portrait of a frontman at the center of a horrific attack, but it doesn’t feel quite complete.