Review: Get Back (2021)

Beatles doc is worth the hype

This documentary from Peter Jackson for streaming service Disney+ is really something. It’s the closest thing to being a fly-on-the-wall witnessing the creation of Beatles music I can imagine, far exceeding my expectations. It was fascinating, illuminating and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. I would best describe it as a truly unique film experience well worth the hefty runtime.

The raw footage Peter Jackson drew from was some 57 hours shot for a then-planned but subsequently abandoned film by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. It was supposed to follow the creation of a new album and tv special, all in the span of four weeks in January, 1969, but the tv special never happened and the album, Let It Be, would take 6 months to complete. Many years later, Peter Jackson has taken that footage and restored it to make the three part docuseries for Disney+ with each episode weighing in at around 3 hours.

First of all, the restoration was eye-popping in and of itself. The film looks like it was shot yesterday (pun intended), not sixty years ago. It is so unbelievably crisp and clear and rich in colour – perhaps a little too much so in the case of just about everybody’s fashion choices!

I think the thing I appreciated most was the window the film provided into the world of the band. I have so many preconceived ideas of their interrelationships that it was a surprise in some ways to see how they operated together and how much the looked like they genuinely enjoyed each other’s company, though there are moments of tension. It did make me rethink my opinions of John Lennon and Paul McCartney particularly. I also liked they way Yoko Ono was presented as someone John Lennon genuinely loved, not the cause of the band’s break-up, as the tired old cliche goes.

And the series is genuinely funny at times. My favourite moment was the bit when six year-old Heather McCartney comes to visit the studio with her mother, Linda Eastman, and sees Yoko Ono doing her primal scream thing. Next thing you know, Heather is giving it a go and it’s just hilarious to see a six year-old doing it with the band playing along!

The climax of the film is the famous “roof-top concert” the Beatles played on January 30, 1969, their last ever live performance. It’s the perfect scene to end on, of course, and it is played out brilliantly with picture-in-picture footage from the many cameras stationed around the building and the street playing simultaneously, giving multiple perspectives in real-time (a personal favourite gimmick). The moment when Paul McCartney catches sight of the police coming to shut it down and he whoops with excitement is the absolute gem of the whole scene, the look on his face just priceless.

I loved this docuseries for a lot of reasons, almost all of which are due to the format which made it possible. The convenience of streaming that much film at your own leisure is something you couldn’t get in a single feature or a traditional series format. You feel like you’re spending time with these amazing people and it’s almost hypnotic just watching things unfold in an unrushed way that, again, wouldn’t really be possible in any other format but streaming. It is a unique film experience for that reason as well as the content itself.

Peter Jackson’s Get Back is like nothing else and definitely worth watching.

The Beatles: Get Back | Official Trailer | Disney+ – YouTube

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