Beginning credits roll. The intro to “Up All Night” lingers in the air. It’s dark, but you can make out five figures being lifted onto the stage. The lights snap on, accompanied by loud cheering, screaming and images of the thousands of crying fans. There they are: the five U.K. heart-throbs Louis Tomlinson, Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Zayn Malik and Niall Horan. They are positioned onstage and ready to rock. This is One Direction, and this is their documentary, “One Direction: This Is Us.”
“This Is Us” is not strictly a documentary or a 3-D concert but a mixture of the two. The film journeys through the lives of the five band members from their humble beginnings on Britain’s reality TV show “The X-Factor” in 2010 up to the present day. It has different segments about each individual “lad” dealing with the difficulties of being on the road and what fame has done for them and each of their families. Each little backstory is brilliantly planned out in a timely manner before the audience’s attention is refocused to a performance of a hit song. This helps viewers—Directioners and haters alike—stay focused on what’s about to come next. It’s this, the constant quirky humor and interesting, diverse personalities of the band that keep the audience on their toes, itching to know what will come next.
According to the film’s producer and director Morgan Spurlock, the film’s title refers to the “us” of the combined band and fans. This makes sense, since the band basically sky-rocketed in popularity after they were voted off of “The X-Factor.” It was fans that promoted the band over social media networks such as Twitter, causing them to become one of the fastest growing bands ever in terms of popularity.
If there’s a complaint against the 3-D movie, it’s that the special effects are a strikingly strange component to the film. CGI and other effects do not occur often, but are very hit or miss when they do appear. For example, during the band’s performance of “Kiss You,” many old-school video game images fly out at the audience from the screen in a pixelated fashion. What’s meant to come off as an awesome futuristic and 3-D experience comes off as slightly cheesy. However, special effects are put to a good use during other upbeat numbers such as “She’s Not Afraid” and “C’mon, C’mon” when sound wave ripple effects and comic book-style art forms are coordinated into the visuals.
Even though the effects seem weary at times, the cinematography is praiseworthy. 3-D filming enhances the realism of the handsome mates during their interviews as well as their onstage performances. In several scenes, the boys stand and look at the audience. From this angle, the viewer gets to see how amazing the concert looks like from the perspective of the band. The lights go up and a camera is positioned at their backs as they look out at a completed jam-packed performance center crowded with screaming and crying fans. It is an incredible image.
“This Is Us” is highly entertaining. I would recommend this film to anyone who has even partially enjoyed a One Direction single. The film helps you get to know these boys for who they truly are as individual lads, as “best mates” and what it means to be a band as a whole.
4 out of 5 stars