In the mid-90's, there wasn't a bigger rock band in the world than Oasis. Led by siblings Noel and Liam Gallagher, the Manchester-based group became the face of Britpop and the biggest thing to hit the British music scene since the Fab Four. With "Oasis: Supersonic," director Mat Whitecross gives the band the "Behind the Music" treatment, charting their formation and meteoric rise in all its brilliant, brawling, drug-addled (morning) glory.
At the heart of the band was the relationship between Liam and Noel, which veered wildly between loving and contemptuous. It was a sometimes violent rivalry; as one interviewee puts it, "Noel has a lot of buttons, Liam has a lot of fingers." Both gifted musicians and outsized personalities, their relationship was both the band's greatest strength and what ultimately drove it into the ground.
That relationship was a whirlwind of ego and narcissism mixed with a considerable self-destructive streak, and Whitecross spends a good portion of the film on their exploits as the band quickly gained a reputation as being a bunch of hooligans. Oasis members recount antics like the time the entire band taking crystal meth (mistaking it for cocaine) right before a gig and proceeded to take the stage and begin playing several different songs simultaneously.
"Supersonic" is produced by Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees -- the team behind last year's Amy Winehouse documentary, "Amy" -- and Whitecross opts for a similar technique as that Oscar-winning film. Voiceover taken from newly conducted interviews with the band, family members, and various key players in the group's early days play over a plentiful collection of home movies, archival footage, and performance clips tied together with some snazzy motion graphics. Whitecross tosses in the occasional insight -- such as suggesting that the brothers' behavior charts back to an abusive father -- but for the most part, the film isn't interested in delving too deeply.
The film ends with the band at the height of their popularity, giving a massive pair of concerts in Knebworth in 1996 (though the band didn't actually call it quits until 2009). The doc positions those concerts as the end of an era -- both culturally and musically -- but the preceding two hours have given us such an insular view of the band's early rise that it's difficult to tell for sure; a little more in the way of context would have made its case a little stronger. Still, for fans of the group (or music in general) the film offers a compelling, sometimes poignant, and often very funny look inside one of the biggest acts in rock history.