Don Argott Sheena M. Joyce (director)
29 July 2019 (released)
28 July 2019
Documentaries have started to come into their own over the past few years with them becoming far more cinematic; unfolding narratives as tightly as any thriller or drama (Three Perfect Strangers) or serve up the spectacular (Diego Maradona). In some cases, telling stories that would be ideal for adaptation but for some reason never made.
John DeLorean is one such character, a brilliant engineer, playboy trappings and risk taker, a drug-dealer and criminal. It’s all there waiting for the right script and although there were plenty of titles nothing much was produced. Which is where we start with this film with whole lot of ideas and half-ideas that barely got passed the keyboard.
The story proper begins in the 1950’s when he joined GM and proved to be something of a maverick, whose innovative ideas and designs revived Pontiac taking them out of the doldrums and onto success. Thus paving a way for him to become the youngest ever division head in GM history. He was now wealthy and indulged in the playboy lifestyle that at the time was the territory of film and rock stars, with all the attendant public scrutiny.
But GM’s risk averse culture led him to leave and found his own company. The most striking product being the iconic DeLorean Gull-Wing. There’s a UK interest here in that he managed to cadge public money from the then Labour government and build it in Belfast. From which the plug was pulled when Margaret Thatcher became PM in 1979.
It can’t solely be put down to the Government of the time as the company had got itself into all sorts of problems meaning the car didn’t sell on its initial launch and was a flop eventually causing it to shutdown. Who know what the fortunes could have been had they managed to hang on to 1985 and the release of Back to the Future!
Meanwhile while all this was playing to the public, behind the scenes DeLorean was overseeing shady deals that criss-crossed the world, colleagues being duped and drugs. It was a labyrinthian web of high-finance, deals, companies and contracts.
The directors Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce have deep-dived into this and pulled up some fantastic footage and contributions from people who knew him, and affected by his decisions. The candid contributions from his children are particularly revelatory. It’s a devastating portrait of a complicated man who had it all and threw it away.
Where the film comes unstuck and falters is with the use of actors to play out certain scenes with Alec Baldwin playing DeLorean, and Morena Baccarin his wife Cristina Ferrare. They are ok but it’s an odd move that doesn’t sit well or do much for the narrative other than we get some idea of how actors prepare for their roles; DeLorean’s story is so incredible that it doesn’t require such embellishments.