The Beatles: Get Back *****

PETER Jackson performed a cinematic miracle in bringing soldiers from the First World War “back to life” in They Shall Not Grow Old. Now the director has done the same with a band from Liverpool you may just have heard of, and the results are exhilarating.

The Beatles’ “Get Back” sessions for the studio album Let it Be were first recorded by Michael Lindsay-Hogg in London in 1969. But the American only used a fraction of the footage in his 121-minute documentary, Let it Be, released the following year.

Jackson, director of the Lord of the Rings and King Kong, was given access to all the material - 60 hours of film and 150 hours of audio - much of it unseen or heard by outsiders. From this restored material he has made three, two-hour films showing on Disney + from today.

The footage is so crisp and clear it could have been shot last year never mind half a century ago. While there is a thrill to be had seeing the band playing, Jackson’s film offers more than this. This is a fly on the wall documentary about a family, with the intimacy so intense at times you almost feel like you should look away or stop eavesdropping. Almost.

Here they are again, just as you remembered or imagined them. Paul the bossy one, complaining about being made to play the boss. John, nervy, mercurial, appearing vulnerable even with his other half Yoko never leaving his side. “It’s like you and me are lovers,” he says to McCartney. Given how they look at each other, they way they move, communicate, you can see his point. McCartney, meanwhile, goes from agony to ecstasy the second he hears John has not quit after all and will be coming back to the session.

Then there is George, in his mind already moved on. Still part of the family but fed up being treated, as he sees it, as a junior member. “You don’t annoy me any more,” he tells Paul (shortly before George, too, heads for the exit). And Ringo, blessed Ringo, the most grounded and happiest of the lot, the one that has wisely refused all entreaties to stage the film in the desert in Libya.

Lindsay-Hogg’s film was dominated by bickering and overshadowed by the split that was to come. While not ignoring what the atmosphere was like at times, Jackson balances the tension with many scenes of the four laughing and skitting each other like the lifelong friends they had been, and still were underneath it all.

There are some moments you wish Jackson had left in the can (Yoko singing anyone?) and six hours might be too much for even the most dedicated follower of The Beatles. Then again, how often does a viewer get so up close and personal with geniuses at work? Six hours, moreover, is a half shift to the average streaming service viewer.

The highlight of the piece is once again the rooftop concert on Savile Row, shown here in its entire 42-minutes. “I hope we passed the audition,” Lennon joked at the end. It was their last public performance, but Jackson’s film, like their music, will help to keep the history and legends alive.

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