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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The Beatles: Get Back, review: Peter Jackson’s epic edit is truly fab, but too long and winding

Episode one (which debuts today) depicts the group getting to grips with a huge, cold, acoustically challenging film studio in Twickenham, whilst Harrison’s mood visibly darkens and Lennon (and his constantly present yet silent partner Yoko Ono) seem to drift in a state of lethargy. Determined to defuse tensions, McCartney presciently observes that “in 50 years time its going to seem comical that [we] broke up because Yoko sat on an amp.”

McCartney is the emotional heart of the series, sometimes needy, sometimes irritating to his band mates, but always invested in the bigger idea of the Beatles. In episode two (streaming from Friday), after Harrison briefly quits and Lennon doesn’t show up for rehearsals, Jackson lingers in slow motion on McCartney’s tearful expression. “And then there were two,” he tells Starr. 

A frank off-camera sound recording of a conversation catches McCartney telling Lennon “I always thought you were the boss”, reinforcing what everyone can see for themselves: just how much McCartney longs for the approval of his old songwriting friend. Things pick up with Lennon energised and increasingly assertive as they relocate to the more intimate basement of Apple HQ, with Harrison returning in a sunny mood, his creative frustrations allayed. By the time we reach episode three (released on Saturday) it is all a joy.

What is particularly lovely is witnessing the degree to which the Beatles support and encourage each other’s creativity, whether it is Harrison helping Starr compose Octopus’s Garden or Lennon and McCartney amending each other’s lyrics and singing each other’s songs (McCartney performs Strawberry Fields, I’m So Tired and Don’t Let Me Down, whilst Lennon plays a wistful I Lost My Little Girl). 

Amid goofy humour and wacky jams with a terrific Billy Preston, the Beatles build up to a final performance where the connection between them is absolutely electrifying. As their long-time producer George Martin appreciatively notes: “You’re looking at each other, you’re seeing each other, you’re … just happening!” It is a treat to witness this for ourselves, and see the Beatles back where they belong. But if it’s been a long time coming, it sure takes a long time getting there.

The Beatles: Get Back premieres on Disney+ November 25, 26 and 27

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