Starring: Diego Maradona
Director: Asif Kapadia
Running Time: 130 mins
Diego Maradona is a British documentary about the life and career of legendary and controversial Argentinian footballer Diego Maradona, and his hugely successful but turbulent time at Italian club Napoli during the 1980s.
Director Asif Kapadia has, in his last two films Senna and Amy, brought about some of the most striking, moving and memorable filmmaking the documentary genre has ever had to offer, standing head and shoulders above the majority of what can be a rather bland form. As a result, I went into Diego Maradona with very high expectations, and while I can certainly say that Kapadia once again impresses his brilliantly vibrant style onto the film, this certainly is no match for the lofty heights of Senna and Amy.
I’ll get into why that is the case in a moment, but first and foremost, there’s no denying what a fascinating and engrossing look into the life and career of footballer Diego Maradona this film is. From a purely biographical perspective, the film is absolutely loaded with information and riveting backstory to one of the sport’s most colourful characters, brilliantly striking a balance between on-pitch excitement and off-pitch personal drama, and making for both an informative and thoroughly engaging watch throughout.
There is the argument that, as the film is so full of information and things to learn about Maradona, that you do need to have a good understanding of the footballing world to get to grips with the significance of a number of major events and themes that play out through his time at Napoli, with the status of clubs and national teams along with the importance of individual competitions playing a big role in Maradona’s turbulent career.
However, for football fans, this documentary won’t disappoint in the slightest, and much like Senna and Amy, which delved into their respective areas of focus in riveting detail but with such passion and energy at the same time, Diego Maradona proves a vibrant and entertaining documentary right the way through, which is more than can be said for a number of films about major football icons.
Looking at the film from a more cinematic perspective, the merits of Kapadia’s brilliant directorial style are clear as day, as he brings real passion and sense of important emotion to every twist and turn shown throughout. Much like the two previous documentaries, Diego Maradona doesn’t play out entirely in chronological order, cleverly choosing a centrepoint of his career that works as a metaphor for his whole life, and then peering back into the past or ahead of that time period when appropriate.
As a result, the film is a riveting and structurally impressive one, telling its story with far more energy and dynamism than the majority of sports documentaries.
However, the big thing that disappointed me about Diego Maradona in comparison to Kapadia’s Senna and Amy is its relative lack of hard-hitting emotion. Now, a different subject matter will always make for a different emotional effect, with Senna’s story ending on an astonishing crescendo, while Amy’s featured a more patient yet even more heartbreaking tale of decline, however there’s something about Maradona’s story that’s missing that mind-blowing emotional power that made those two films so incredible.
Of course, both Senna and Amy built up to a single crescendo at the end of the film, whereas Diego Maradona is a little more broken up, with three different main themes playing out as little mini movies within the overall film, focusing individually on his rise at Napoli and in the Argentina team, his role as a major international icon, and his downfall in the later years of his career.
As I said previously, there’s never a dull moment when it comes to learning about Maradona’s life and career, and those three main themes offer up so much fascinating history, however the fact that they do operate rather independently of one another means the overall film lacks the emotional intensity and breathlessness of Senna and Amy, and as such doesn’t have that same hard-hitting, moving impact at any point.
I hold Senna and Amy in immensely high regard not only as good documentaries, but brilliant pieces of filmmaking, so comparing Diego Maradona so closely to them seems very harsh, but they are signals of what director Asif Kapadia is capable of, and I feel that he doesn’t quite reach his full potential with this film.
With all that said, there’s no denying what a great film Diego Maradona is, not only from a biographical perspective, but also as a riveting, dynamic and deeply engrossing documentary that’s both energetic and very well-structured throughout. It may not have the intense emotional impact that Senna and Amy do, suffering from a slightly jarring distance between its main themes, but it’s an enthralling watch from beginning to end nonetheless, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.8 overall.