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

Film Review: Three Identical Strangers

This is a crazy story, so out-there that it defies belief. Twins, separated at birth, find each other and then a third finds them, making them triplets unaware of each other’s existence for the first 19 years of their lives. How did this happen? The film digs into the mystery and comes up with some very strange, sinister and unsettling answers, many of which only lead to more questions. I found it to be one of the more compelling, fascinating and unexpectedly moving documentaries I’ve seen.

The film opens with one of the triplets relating the story of how he came to discover his brother by being mistaken for him at college. Their reunion became a news story big enough to attract the attention of a third brother, who got in touch as soon as he heard about them. They became something of celebrities in the 80’s as a result of their story getting national newspaper coverage, but as they began to investigate the circumstances of their situation they uncovered a bizarre chain of evidence that adds up to what looks like some kind of cover-up.

To say anything more would spoil the film’s genuinely shocking twists and turns. The filmmakers use archival footage, modern-day interviews and re-enactments to tell the story, all of which are exceptionally well put-together and make a great unified whole that demonstrates the puzzle-like nature of the triplets’ quest for more information. The implications are challenging and a little disturbing, but what I liked most about it is that it presents every side in a very balanced way. Knowing how easy it is to manipulate information for dramatic effect, I appreciate the filmmakers’ even-handedness in allowing the audience to decide for themselves how to feel.

I highly recommend Three Identical Strangers for its compelling subject matter, the excellence of its assembly and just the astoundingly twisted tale it tells. This is the kind of documentary I love. I give it a solid 8 out of 9.

Trailer

Once again, Mark Kermode’s review nails it: