In Review

Diego Maradona movie review: high-five for the ‘Hand of God’

Argentine football legend is the subject of a brilliant new documentary

There’s one piece of advice that every writer or journalist is given when starting out - and that is to “hook in the audience”.

Whether it’s writing a front-page news story or a best-selling novel, the opening words are absolutely critical to making sure the reader is not only immediately engaged but also continues to read on.

It’s the same with films. An opening scene can make or break a movie, so it’s up to the screenwriters and directors to create something unique.

For me, there are two films whose opening scenes are among the best of all time: The Godfather (part one) and Up.

The two movies could not be further apart genre-wise, but when it comes to their openings, viewers are instantly given something equally breathtaking to digest.

Who can forget seeing Marlon Brando’s Don Vito Corleone for the first time in Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Mario Puzo’s classic gangster tale? Or how Carl and Ellie’s romance started - and sadly ended - in Pixar’s wonderful animation?

Those two classics now have a rival… and it comes in the form of Diego Maradona, the new movie about the football icon. The opening scene is a true tour de force, worth the price of entry alone.

Accompanied by the 1980s Euro disco-pop tune Delorean Dynamite, the manic opening scene shows Maradona and his entourage being driven in Fiats through the chaotic streets of Naples in Italy as the Argentine makes his way to the San Paolo Stadium for his first press conference having signed for Napoli from Barcelona.

Once in the press conference, the madness continues as hundreds of media - and thousands of fans outside - descend into outright pandemonium as a footballing icon speaks for the first time as a Napoli player. 

The opening scene sets the tone for the rest of the film - which, like Maradona’s career and life as a whole, is a manic roller-coaster ride.

Two sides to the story

Created by the film-making team behind Senna and Amy, Diego Maradona is not just a sports movie.

While his time in Naples and his World Cup exploits are obvious major themes, the non-football storylines such as fame, illegitimate children, drug addiction, family life and the Camorra crime organisation also have equal importance.

As an English football fan it’s easy to dislike Maradona because of his “Hand of God” goal at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. But one thing you can’t deny is that he’s one of the greatest players ever to grace a football pitch.

Away from the field of play, he has also had a wild life. From his struggling childhood as one of eight children growing up in Buenos Aires to becoming one of the most famous people on the planet, there’s definitely two sides to this maverick character.

Director Asif Kapadia perfectly tells the story of both “Diego” and “Maradona”. On one side you have “Diego” - the shy, caring, family man. And on the other you have “Maradona” - the rebel, hero, hustler, god.

It’s this difference of personality that really sums the life of the South American superstar. Like I said it’s easy to dislike “Maradona” for his cheating and wild antics, but it’s also easy to feel sympathy for “Diego” as he struggled to cope with the fame, fortune and fall from grace.

In recent years there’s been some amazing sports documentaries released and the genre is really growing in popularity. But Diego Maradona is an even better film than Senna, which was a worthy winner of multiple awards.

With countless never-seen-before home movie shots, interviews and a brilliant music score, Diego Maradona is a film made for the cinema and for football fans and non-football fans alike.

So don’t wait for it to be released on a streaming service as you would miss out on the big-screen experience and that crazy, perfect, mind-blowing opening scene.

Verdict: 5 stars

Diego Maradona is released in UK and Irish cinemas on Friday 14 June

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