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'Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends)' prefers healing over rage

Colin Hanks' doc lends a shoulder to the band who almost died in the Paris attacks of 2015.
Eagles of Death Metal

Musicians Jesse Hughes and Dave Catching stand before a crowd during their return HBO

‘Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends)’
Director:
Colin Hanks
Genre: Documentary
Rating: NR
3 (out of 5) Globes

In the movies, terrorism inspires more terror. The bad guys are tracked down and killed. Our blood lust is sated. America, f— yeah! It’s rare to see the subject handled as it is in the doc “Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends).” The focus is the Paris attacks of Nov. 13, 2015, specifically the 89 out of 130 city-wide who perished in Le Bataclan during a show by the American retro rock outfit. We hear plenty of details, but none of it is supposed to boil our blood. It’s about the simple act of hearing traumatized survivors speak. There are no horrifying recreations on-screen — just people struggling (and often failing) to not break down as they wrestle with sights they can’t un-see, thoughts they can’t un-think, memories that will never go away.

This is a film of healing, of group therapy, though there’s no actual group therapy sessions a la “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster.” Everyone is friends, even the director, the actor-turned-filmmaker Colin Hanks. Hanks has long known the band, including frontman Jesse Hughes and co-founder/part-time-drummer Josh Homme, and it tells: He structures the film like someone trying to coax suffering friends to the light.

RELATED: Interview: Colin Hanks on helping friends with "Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis"

Hanks catches them three months after the tragedy, when they’re about to return to Le Bataclan for a show that’s part memorial, part act of defiance against those who want the masses scared. But they’re still raw, scarred wrecks uncertain how they’ll react once there, unsure when they’ll reach the point when they no longer spontaneously burst into waterworks. So Hanks brings them back to the beginning. The first half-hour is a freewheeling history of the band and the lifelong friendship between Hughes and Homme. Hughes was a rabble-rouser in need of an outlet for his unstoppable energy. Homme, meanwhile, was taking off with Queens of the Stone Age. He suggested Hughes write some songs. Quickly, Eagles of Death Metal — who sound neither like The Eagles nor metal — was born.

The band thus partially resuscitated, Hanks spends the remainder as either a good listener or a fly on the wall. They talk about what they saw. They return to Paris and hug the night’s fellow survivors, plus one guy who says he watched the terrorists enter the venue but did nothing. Hughes is like a big teddy bear covered in excess tats, red-tinted sunglasses and a Civil War ’stache, who also collects capes. On stage he’s an animal in tight jeans, bringing sex back to rock ’n’ roll; the flip side is he easily breaks down and tells you what your friendship means to him.

And that’s what’s laced throughout “Nos Amis”: a look at Jesse and Josh, who’ve stuck together over the years, who’ve encouraged the best in each other. Homme, who can’t always play with them but has never rescinded his EoDM services, was not at the Bataclan show, but he’s as important a figure as anyone else. He tends to his own guilt by lending a shoulder to his freaked-out friends. Hanks doesn’t “politicize” his film, steering clear of arguments about how pols should handle terrorism. It doesn’t even get into Hughes’ own messy immediately-after-the-event actions, which found him accusing the Bataclan staff of being “complicit” then quickly apologizing. It’s only there to lend a hand, and in turn inspire all of us to hope for a time when terrorism is handled thoughtfully, not with tough talk tweets and acts that may make everything worse.

"Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends)" is released in theaters in NYC and L.A. on Feb. 10. It will air on HBO on Mon., Feb. 13.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

 

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