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‘Val’ review: Documentary about versatile actor will be your huckleberry

An intimate look at a real genius.

Val is an intimate look at one of the most well known and versatile actors today. Val Kilmer has starred in some of the most famous movies of all time. Top Gun, Tombstone, and Willow are still talked about to this day. He was the Dark Knight in the ridiculed Batman Forever and wowed audiences in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. He’s played Doc Holiday, Moses, and a real genius. The documentary looks back at the life and career of Kilmer through videos shot by Kilmer and childhood and home movies.

The amount of footage in the film is amazing. Kilmer provided over 800 hours of video that has spanned four decades. This means Val has a lot of ground to cover in what is an immediately daunting task. Despite the incredible amount of material provided, filmmakers Leo Scott and Ting Poo are able to put together a portrait of a person who has changed over the years.

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Val is not content to be just a retelling of Kilmer’s life and career. In some inspired filmmaking, Jack Kilmer is recruited to read some of his father’s written monologues. This brings an unexpected endearing touch to the film. The actor has long been labeled “difficult to work with” and it is neat to see his family brought in.

This does not mean that the documentary or Kilmer shy away from the perception. There is some fascinating footage that provides further insight into working with the actor. The Island of Dr. Moreau is obviously covered as is his turn as Batman. It is rare to receive this sort of access and are some of the most engaging parts of Val.

Anyone who is familiar with Kilmer’s life will not be surprised to learn that there is a sadness that hangs over the documentary. In recent years, the actor has battled cancer. This has left him unable to speak. He also talked about his failed marriage and his rocky relationship with his children. Val never lingers over any of this, but the feeling tends to remain.

Val is a uniquely personal look at an iconic actor. The documentary is an emotional one that covers all aspects of Val Kilmer’s career. His roles in The Doors and Heat may have earned him wide acclaim, but this documentary is as much a look at the man as it is the actor. It is a fine film that goes beyond the “rise and fall” format usually found in the genre.

Val comes to Prime Video August 6

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