Seriously. No exaggeration. I've seen (and own) a large number of concert movies by different bands -- including a few by U2 -- but I've never experienced anything as astonishing as the U2 film in IMAX 3-D. ("U2-3D" is now in release in the US; opens in the UK/Ireland on Feb. 22.) I saw two awesome concerts on the Vertigo tour and I'd venture to say this is even better than the real thing.
Over the 14 songs, the high-definition camera work -- so crisp that you can count the threads on Edge's woolen cap -- places you on the stage as if you were the fifth member of the band. At other times, you're floating just above the musicians so that you can glance down at the setlist taped to the boards or the box of Kleenex next to Larry's drum kit. There are also viewpoints from inside the crowd with people hoisted on shoulders in front of you.
The 3-D stuff is never gimmicky, though. The camerawork is always used in service of immersing the viewer in the concert experience. The depth of field and the three dimensions are so different from watching a regular movie, when one feels one step removed from what's happening on screen.
And then there's the fourth dimension: The sound. The volume is at concert levels, but the digital recording is so remarkably clear that each it picks up every timbre of the snare drum, each shiver of the bottleneck on the fretboard, and the isolated vocals of Bono and the Edge during harmonies.
The performances are as good as the band gets (Bono's great vocals make up for his strained voice on the official "Vertigo: Live in Chicago" DVD) and the vantage point of the film really allows one to feel the interplay between the musicians in a way that one never gets to see from beyond the stage.
More than anything, it's the Edge's show and gives one a renewed appreciation of his distinctive style.
The guitarist really shines during my favorite section of the show is the trio of "Love & Peace," "Sunday, Bloody Sunday," and "Bullet the Blue Sky." The latter song has never left the U2 setlist since 1987 and they add fresh twists to it each tour. This time, Edge plays a blazing solo that's pure blues as the video screens depict F-15 fighters soaring overhead. I recall turning to my wife in the cinema and saying, "WOW!"
There was a common refrain to the many overheard conversations on the way out of the theater: "I want to see that again!" This film really does raise the bar of concert filmmaking.