They may be the most important band of the 20th century. Think that is over the top? Before you argue otherwise, just know they sold more albums than any other group during than the entire 20th Century. More than the Beatles, The Who, or The Rolling Stones. And if that doesn’t convince you, think about how many genre’s they covered. They played rock-and-roll, country, folk, and pop. They could play in a coffee-house and a stadium.
Besides all of that, they sounded incredible. Listen to the first 7 seconds of the film. The band is warming up their vocals to the tune Seven Bridges Road. FLAWLESS. Silk. Everything about that song epitomizes what made the Eagles awesome. Great vocals, great song-writing, great singing, great instrumentation.
The film was originally shown on Showtime in two parts. Netflix has combined it to play as one movie – clocking in at over 3 hours long (187 minutes). The film delivers what it promises – the history of The Eagles, starting with the band’s founding members and unquestionably the leaders of the band – Don Henley and Glen Frey.
The story is heavily told from their perspective, cutting in routinely to them speaking to the camera. Along the way, we get treated to both archival footage, concert footage, archival interviews as well as current interviews with former bandmates. We hear not only from Henley and Frey but also from jilted bandmates, abandoned producers and record labels. Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Brown, and Bob Seger all make extended appearances as well they should as each one had a significant impact on the formation of the band.
What is great about the film are the ugly parts. Henley and Frey both stated they wanted to tell the true story of the band. Mission accomplished. We get to see the egos clash, the drug use, the alcoholism, the women-chasing, and even the back-door nasty contract negotiations. David Geffen, founder of Asylum records and later Geffen records shows his dark side in the film as The Eagles and him fought for years over the rights of the songs.
The dynamic between Glen Frey and Don Felder is even more explosive. There is even footage from the last concert that Frey and Felder played together before the band broke up in 1980. The conversation is absolutely incredible and it’s like watching a train wreck. You just can’t believe they got this on film and you can’t walk away. What makes the whole thing even MORE compelling are the jump cuts to the modern-day perspective of Frey and Felder.
The film tracks the comings and goings of different band-members, giving each their fair perspective on the story but it’s Henley and Frey that take center stage – as they should.
It’s clear that without the song-writing and singing of these two men, there would be no Eagles. It’s not that Glen Frey is a bad singer. He’s incredible. It’s just that Henley has THE voice. It’s unique and penetrates the heart. It ranks among the all-time great vocals – Steve Perry and Whitney Houston level.
The story is intriguing and it’s raw. This is the big draw of the film. From a cinematography point of view, there is nothing spectacular in the way the film was shot. It’s understandable on the archival footage but the new footage is basically a straight-on shot with a dark background. The editor did a great job in breaking these shots up among the live footage. Otherwise, it would have come across like a PBS special.
If you are an Eagles fan – this is a must. If you are a music fan – it’s an interesting yarn and worth the time. It’s not to the level of 20 Feet From Stardom or Muscle Shoals and it’s 187 minutes long. It’s doubtful that it will draw in the casual fan but with as many hits that the Eagles had, it’s worth a watch.