This documentary finds director Brett Morgen telling the story of how the Rolling Stones transformed from an upstart band with a hooligan image to one of the most respected and successful bands of all time.
The film doesn't use a narrator; instead Morgen uses newly-recorded audio commentary from Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood to enhance the vintage video footage he presents. The use of commentary from band members only, no pundits or hangers-on, makes for a riveting viewing as the film begins in the nascent days of the Brian Jones era and the band's sudden explosion of popularity.
The press raked the band over the coals pretty good in this era, one wag even saying he saw fleas leaping out of the member's shaggy hair. There's amusing stuff from this time period too; Watts marvels at how the girls in the audience at early shows would wet themselves, so much so that puddles of urine would be left on the floor of concert venues.
Band manager Andrew Oldham encouraged the bad boys' image but eventually the whole thing got out of hand as the band endured the mysterious death of guitarist Jones and not long after the disastrous Altamont concert where a man was stabbed to death right in front of the stage in full view of the band.
Serious drug addictions, arrests and tax problems would follow and it seemed like the band would never shake off the darkness until an unlikely savior came along in the form of Ronnie Wood, who injected a sense of fun back into the band, the catalyst that finally moved the Stones out of the "dangerous" era.
The film ends after an in depth exploration of the still ongoing Wood years. Backstage and candid footage is in abundance and viewers will see things like Jagger snorting coke off a knife blade and in one dressing room shot, his bare ass. But a good deal of the story is told through the music and thankfully the performance clips go beyond mere snippets.
Bonus footage shot in the '60s presents rarely-seen performances of nine songs including takes on "Not Fade Away," "The Last Time," "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "You Better Move On." This exceptional film has a wide appeal but will be especially appreciated by those generations that "grew up" along with the Stones.
You can buy the DVD here and the Blu-ray here.