One Direction: This Is Us (3 stars)

One Direction: This Is Us

Harry Styles' hyperventilating fans emerge as the truly special effects in Morgan Spurlock's pop doc

Behind Harry Styles, there are a lot of harried stylists. You actually get to see some of them in this Simon Cowell-produced monument to the astonishing first chapter of the One Direction story. It’s a work-for-hire gig for extrovert documentary-maker Morgan Spurlock, although he remains mute and off-camera throughout, perhaps aware of how distractingly decrepit he might look compared to his pin-up subjects.

After recapping 1D’s fortuitous genesis on the X Factor in 2010 – presumably for the benefit of any dads dragged along to the cinema – Spurlock follows the ten-legged swoon machine on a gigantic world tour, shadowing them from airports to utilitarian megadome venues and then back to airports again. There are contributions from 1D’s bemused parents and an unexpected cameo by Martin Scorsese.

The young stars generally come off as affable and level-headed considering their unprecedented success, although character traits begin to emerge amid the gang larks. Niall is prone to rhetorical self-analysis, Zayn remains guarded, Liam clowns about and Harry breezes through the entire thing without damaging his popular image as 'the sexy one'. Louis is nice enough, but gets upstaged by his nan. The on-the-road story is interspliced with bountiful – some might say endless – footage of the band in full flight at a showcase O2 gig, a performance shot with technical verve and enlivened by some clever 3D visuals.

The real special effects, though, are the hyperventilating acolytes. You can manufacture bands, but you can’t manufacture fans, and This Is Us acknowledges and celebrates their role in creating the global 1D phenomenon, an anthropological angle that elevates the film slightly above the level of ephemeral merchandise. A credits reel comprised of goofier footage in the vein of Bo’ Selecta! suggests Spurlock may even have road-tested some other approaches, perhaps before having his course corrected toward the one true direction: Cowell’s own.

General release from Fri 29 Aug.

One Direction - 1D: This Is Us (trailer)

One Direction

Lock up your daughters – the staggeringly popular X-Factor behemoth pops off on a wee stadium tour.

One Direction: This Is Us

  • 3 stars
  • 2013
  • US
  • 1h 32min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Morgan Spurlock
  • Cast: Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson
  • UK release: 29 August 2013

Harry Styles and Co. beamed onto the big screen, with behind-the-scenes snippets and concert footage.