When filming a documentary about a writer so eccentric, talented, and gigantically presenced that a peer describes him as having had “the attributes of an action hero,” the risk is less that you’ll render his story uninteresting than you’ll end up with a feature filled with chaos. Not with Alex Gibney at the helm, however. The Oscar-winning director of Taxi to the Dark Side and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room—docs that brilliantly distilled what felt like a Google’s worth of facts into digestible viewing—again plucked, jiggered, and embellished wisely to create Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Johnny Depp narrates, reading from Thompson’s work, and interviews with his family as well as figures such as Jann Wenner, Tom Wolfe, Pat Buchanan, and Jimmys Carter and Buffett talk about the journalist’s escapades, from his fondness for guns and drugs to his bid to become sheriff of Aspen in 1970. (Scenes from the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas are included to highlight the craziness that could be a day with Hunter.) Most important, of course, are his words, and Gibney lingers on the assignments that led to Thompson’s anointing as gonzo: the 1968 Democratic Convention, his Hell’s Angels embed, coverage of the Kentucky Derby and the campaigns of George McGovern, whom Thompson supported, and Richard Nixon. Politics could animate and depress Thompson, apparently right up until his suicide in 2005. “The nightmare we’re in today is essentially the same as the nightmare he described back then,” colleague Tim Crouse says. Anita, Thompson’s second wife, is more direct: “I started worrying about him right after the Bush election. That was the trigger.” —TO

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