One Direction: This Is Us follows the rise and proliferation of a modern marvel. As the award-winning documentary filmmaker behind the film told us in our Morgan Spurlock exclusive interview, this is a band that needed a lot of things to fall into place to become the never-have-we-seen-this-before sensation that is One Direction. Skeptics may scoff that this is nothing but a continuation of a cycle that started with the Beatles and screaming girls. Yet, as Spurlock shows in his film... there is something uniquely different about this round of pop music mayhem.
Simply look at this One Direction: This Is Us clip and you’ll get an idea that this band firmly decreed that they would only climb the music ladder of success on their terms and Spurlock shows how.
The helmer compiled almost 1,000 hours of concert footage from the band’s world tour as well as behind-the-scenes footage of the boys being boys, coupled with video and photos from the boys’ youth, plus interviews with the guys, their families and of course the fans who made them the hugest band in the world.
Only a documentary filmmaker of Spurlock’s talent could weave together this story of rags to riches for a band that so firmly sits in the genre that is “the boy band.” He makes it so compelling, it is as if he was chronicling someone’s rise to Nobel Peace Prize winner. Spurlock interweaves his story with performances of song selections from the group’s two albums. Their five night sellout of the O2 Arena in London finds a majority of the live music, but audiences also get to see the guys performing hits such as What Makes You Beautiful, One Thing and covers such as Teenage Dirtbag in Japan, Holland, Mexico City and more.
What the viewer gleans from these shows, as well as the insightful interviews, is that what is happening with One Direction, as seen in the One Direction: This Is Us trailer, is truly once in a lifetime. Sure, "boy bands" come and go… but there is something astounding in how it happened to Brits Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles.
We meet the guys as they show up individually for the Simon Cowell-produced X-Factor. Each is young, but shares the same passion for singing and making a livelihood out of it. Despair turns to triumph when they don’t make the show’s top 10 and then learn backstage after the X-Factor elimination show that Cowell wants them to sing together and form a band. It is at that point that social media catapults them from singing competition also-rans to international superstars who can’t go anywhere without being mobbed.
Clearly, there wasn’t social media or 24-hour news stations when the Beatles landed in America. That was a cultural earthquake. What happened to One Direction is the pop culture equivalent of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs and Spurlock expertly presents how it happened in a manner that even the most novice of music or movie fans can appreciate its magnitude. It is simply… astounding.
As music docs go, our One Direction: This Is Us review finds that it is not one of the best of all-time (vote for best concert movie!).
But, it firmly sits atop those that were huge successes of late… most notably Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and Katy Perry: Part of Me. And we feel that is largely due to the brilliant social chronicler that sits behind the camera who crossed the world and visually captured lightning in a bottle.
One Direction: This Is Us could almost be seen as the type of film society might think about putting in a time capsule as it not only tells the story of a band on a Beatle-mania type run across the world, but it is also a unique reflection -- like it or not -- of our entertainment and social world, circa 2013.