There is a large segment of Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, the new documentary from Julien Temple (The Filth and the Fury) that is so sloppy and haphazard that it borders on unwatchable. That segment in question is actually the entire first half of the film, which deals with arguably the most important band ever, the Clash. Despite grainy lost footage, archival clips, and raw soundboard audio of this seminal, and downright unstoppable band, one horrifying word can sum up how this film was nearly ruined: Bono.
Temple marches out a nonstop parade of blowhards who wax poetic about the Clash while in front of the flickering flames of a bonfire (community fires were a common theme in Strummer's art, and thus, this film as well). Want to hear Mr. U2, Matt Dillon, Johnny Depp (dressed, weirdly enough, in full Pirates of the Caribbean garb), Flea, John Cusack, and Courtney Love all repeat the same old clichés about the Clash's greatness? Of course not.
But thankfully, The Future Is Unwritten is saved by an absolutely stunning second act that focuses on Strummer's post-Clash output, his painfully lonely lost years, his family, and the man's storied legacy following his sudden death in 2002 from an undiagnosed congenital heart defect. The footage of Strummer's "wilderness years" are worth the ticket price alone, as is the anecdote about how he broke into tears after seeing the words "Rock the Casbah" scrawled on an American bomb during the first Gulf War. Such humanistic moments are emotionally hard to ignore, even on such a bulletproof subject like Strummer, whose legacy of punk rock sainthood is already well secured. We don't need Bono to tell us that.