This film is an absolute much watch for Oasis fans, and a proper belter of a music documentary - Roll with it!
Mat Whitecross is certainly a big boy in the game of documentary filmmaking. Over recent years he’s shifted his focus away from his earlier political films, and now onto music films, most notably with his documentary Amy about the late Amy Winehouse, and the drama Spike Island about a group of mates getting to that seminal Stone Roses gig. With a track record like his it certainly generated a lot of hype for us Britpop fans when it was announced he was doing a documentary about none other than Oasis!
Before getting into the review it needs to be made clear to anyone planning on watching, that the film covers the rise of Oasis and ends at their monumental gig at Knebworth in 1996; the film doesn’t cover the band’s later years and eventual break up, so if you go in expecting that you will leave disappointed.
The film starts with some truly entrancing helicopter footage of the massive Knebworth crowd, which is then followed by the backstage footage of Oasis making their way onto the stage (you really feel as if you’re walking onto the stage with them). The film then jumps back to Noel and Liam’s childhood, and precedes to work its way back to Knebworth. The film is mainly told via archive footage (a lot of it previously unreleased) and anarchic animations. Narration from a wide cast overlays this footage. The filmmakers really went out of their way to get people involved in giving their perspectives; distinct and characteristically candid commentary is provided not just by Noel and Liam, but by pivotal figures such as Bonehead, Mark Coyle, Alan Mcgee and Peggy Gallagher. At first the aforementioned animations proved to be a concern, as I was worried they’d be too try-hard and quirky, and not feel in line with the rock and roll spirit of Oasis, thankfully this proved not be the case, as the animations often gave the anecdotes great energy and really complimented Liam’s laugh out loud commentary in particular.
The film captures the big moments from those years very well, the gigs and infamous antics all get solid coverage. More impressively the film manages to present the smaller, more intimate moments too. A particular highlight was watching the lads going wild as United lost the 94-95 Premier League on the last day of the season. The film’s heavy focus on the early years, allows areas of Oasis’ history previously not really explored (i.e Noel’s time as a Roadie for Inspiral Carpets & the Crystal Meth fiasco at whiskey a go go during the band’s first attempt to break America) to get more detail than they usually do in standard TV documentaries about the band.
The film isn’t all laughs though. There are moments of total euphoria, where old live performance footage has been cleared up, such having a truly stunning effect. The film also does have some suitably understated sad moments, such mainly involving Liam and Noel’s scummy father, and the departures of several original members of both the band and its travelling entourage. The film does run the emotional gamut, a feature that makes it exhilaratingly authentic.
My only gripes with the film are all nitpicks that really don’t detract from the film. There were some certain early Oasis recordings and demos which it would have been cool to have interwoven into the film, however the film for the most part did include a lot of this type of material, some of it obscure enough to be real treats for die hard Oasis fans. The film’s focus on Oasis’ rise, the creative process behind the early albums, and the personal disputes that grew out of this, doesn’t leave it much time to look at the cultural context of the time (their legendary rivalry with Blur doesn’t even get a mention); this is fine, as the film is focused on the people side.
The film is bookended by Knebworth, such symbolizing the highest point of Oasis-mania in the documentary’s narrative. It’s arguable that the high point in Oasis-Mania surrounds the creation and release of their extravagant (and underrated) third studio album “Be Here Now” in 1997. However it’s understandable on a structural level that the film goes for Knebworth instead, as the inclusion of a Be Here Now Chapter would dramatically inflate the run time, and also facilitate more of a look at the decline of Oasis. Liam Gallagher was championing a sequel looking at the band’s falling apart in the film’s follow up Q & A, so hopefully we will get to see that story told too.
The thing that makes you so invested in Oasis’s journey of success, is the fact that it feels like you’re watching your mates who you knocked about with at school, up on the big stage, living it up, but still staying true to themselves. That’s what makes Oasis’ rise so special. This documentary allows you to discover or relive that enjoyable sensation. Oasis are one of this nation’s biggest recent bands – this documentary does justice to that fact.
Supersonic (2016), directed by Mat Whitecross, is distributed in the UK by Entertainment One UK, Certificate 15.