Where Let it Be would never be enough of a documentary to capture the rise and fall of The Beatles, at least it was not a bewildering eight hours in length. The Beatles: Get Back is. The latest feature turned miniseries from Disney+ sees Peter Jackson tackle 60 hours worth of footage and cram it down into a digestible time for those hoping to understand the fractured, confusing end of Beatlemania. Here, it is up to Jackson and the men at the heart of his footage to figure out that. The Beatles: Get Back has plenty of time to figure it out. Beautifully lit and intimate it may be, the framing and camera angles provide delicate close-ups of four men at the end of their tether. Not with each other, but with the fame, the fortune, and the glory of being so talented.
A decision to no longer perform live was accepted and mystifying. Jackson makes the right calls, explaining this briefly and succinctly. Much of The Beatles: Get Back justifies its lengthy and hectic creation. Eight hours is enough time. There were that many in a week for The Fab Four. Seeing these tracks come together, Don’t Let Me Down and the titular The Beatles: Get Back, in particular, is stunning. Audiences and fans can always be assured by the genius of The Beatles by listening to the work, but it is a different level entirely to seeing it. The painstaking process of creation to release cuts no corners in The Beatles: Get Back, and that may be what lets it down most of all. Frustration bubbles up and over in some scenes, and they are the moments that show those early fractures so well.
Crashing through the before and after of the band is an interesting and inevitable choice from Jackson. He splices footage of an old live performance with that of the Get Back sessions with a sincerity that drags up more emotively striking content than a simple explanation ever would or could. Plans to take The Beatles out of the ordinary environment go awry, and the frustrations found throughout The Beatles: Get Back are the real driving force. Jackson paces them out fantastically. George Harrison leaving, Ringo Starr mulling things over with quiet solitude and the name-dropping of Eric Clapton provide surprising clangers and interesting moments.
Where the going gets rough is in the actual recording. The move into Apple Studios is the real meat of The Beatles: Get Back. For all the wavering loyalties of Harrison, the greatest parts are in the studio cheekiness of McCartney and Lennon, the camaraderie of Harrison and Starr, the guests and managers and all the problems they overcome as a group. Seeing the fabled rooftop performance was delightful too, teased intermittently through soundbites and foreshadowing inevitabilities.
There is enough within The Beatles: Get Back to take fans old and new back to where they first felt the power of The Beatles. A video of All You Need is Love, a live performance in what looks a bit like a youth hall. That’s where it may start for you. The Beatles: Get Back tries to crack through as much as it can. Omitting the usual talking heads of artists appreciating the band that inevitably inspired him is a saving grace of the heavy Get Back experience. Blurry, too, but that is what happens when so much footage is churned through a remastered portion that is expected. Intoxicating from start to finish, but toxic too. The Beatles: Get Back doesn’t just understand the fractured relationship of The Beatles, but the respect between them. The peace and love, as Ringo would say, is very much intact.