The Beatles: Get Back

The Beatles: Get Back

The Beatles: Get Back

Documentary about the music group The Beatles featuring in-studio footage that was shot in early 1969 for the 1970 feature film ‘Let It Be.’

Peter Jackson restores the 1969 documentary footage of The Beatles recording their album “Let It Be” in . In January 1969, The Beatles began work on an album with the working title of “Get Back,” with the original plan being to write and perform 14 songs in front of an audience as part of a television special. However, rising tensions in the band derail this plan and work on the album moves to The Beatles' new Apple Studio, where they are joined by guest keyboardist Billy Preston. It is there where they come up with the idea of doing a live performance from the roof of the building.

The Beatles: Get Back is a three-part docuseries directed by Peter Jackson, compiled from over 60 hours of footage shot in 1969 by Michael Lindsay-Hogg for the 1970 documentary Let It Be. Using the film restoration techniques developed for Jackson's 2018 documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, the original 16mm footage is restored and presented in HD. Unlike the original documentary, which focused greatly on the growing tensions within The Beatles, leading to their break-up within a year, The Beatles: Get Back aims to provide a more accurate portrait of the events portrayed within the month-long timeline of the sessions.

The Beatles: Get Back was originally intended by Peter Jackson to be a single feature-length documentary. However, in what is almost par on course for the filmmaker, the project turned into a three-part docuseries with a combined running time of 7h48m. I would be very hard-pressed to say that The Beatles: Get Back needed to be this length, since Jackson takes a “everything, including the kitchen sink” approach in depicting the Get Back sessions from the initial rehearsals at Twickenham Studios, where the songs are slowly formed, to the performance on the rooftop of the Apple building on January 29, 1969.

If anything, the rooftop performance, which was the final public performance by The Beatles, is probably the sole segment of The Beatles: Get Back that I truly recommend. For the first time ever, the entire 42 minute performance is shown in its entirety, with Peter Jackson utilizing split screens at points to show the different camera angles of the performance, as well as the reactions from the crowd on the street, including a pair of increasingly annoyed police officers, who spend at least 15 minutes in the reception area, before finally making their way to the rooftop.

While the rooftop performance is the most must-see element of The Beatles: Get Back, I won't say that the rest of the docuseries isn't worth watching, since it provides an interesting fly-on-the-wall look at the creative process of The Beatles. The Beatles: Get Back also somewhat dispels the myth that The Beatles did nothing but fight over the course of these sessions, though there is some drama, such as walking out on the band during their rehearsals at Twickenham Studios, which put an end to the original plan on the album being recorded as a live television special. Also, even though she was omnipresent, it is shown that Yoko Ono played little direct influence in the tensions between The Beatles, though I don't really need to see any more moments of her walking up to the mic and doing the screeching she called singing.

Ultimately, I would probably only recommend that the most hardcore fans watch the entirety of The Beatles: Get Back, though I highly recommend the rooftop performance, which takes up much of the second half of Part 3.

The Beatles: Get Back is now streaming on Disney+

Trailer for The Beatles: Get Back

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.