“Metallica Through the Never” manages to be both a love letter to the band’s fans and one hugely entertaining concert movie. Director Nimród Antal covers a performance by the band from just about every conceivable angle inside a packed arena, while also seamlessly diverging into a separate narrative that becomes more and more surreal as the guys rock on. If you are not of fan of heavy metal, you can still appreciate the filmmaking skills on display.
The concert takes place in a vast unnamed city where lead vocalist James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, and bassist Robert Trujillo, are received with open arms by a very enthusiastic crowd. The band members are well aware they have a very loyal audience and at one point during the concert you can spot a sign in the arena that says “Thank you fans.”
The attendees are rewarded with one heck of a show featuring many gigantic props put on stage for various songs. The most impressive of those is a giant electric chair accompanied by equally giant Tesla coils that emit lightning bolts during a performance of “Ride the Lightning.” It is an impressive sight and one that had me worrying a little for the crowd. Antal’s cameras record all this with wide shots of the band, sometimes panning over into the audience, and other times hanging over the performers’ heads, giving the viewer the best seats in the packed house.
As it that weren’t exciting enough, the film diverges early on into a fictional narrative that follows Trip (Dane DeHaan) a roadie for the band who is given the task of retrieving a mysterious item that is stranded in a van somewhere in the city. A pretty simple assignment, but it quickly dissolves into a fight for Trip’s life. After getting into a serious car accident in the city’s deserted streets, Trip finds himself in the middle of a battle between the police in full riot gear and a gang of marauders led by mysterious gas-mask wearing man on a horse.
Not surprisingly, the scenes of utter chaos and of corpses hanging by streetlights fit seamlessly with the concert footage. In lesser hands, one of the two narratives would become distracting, but here it is a perfect blend. In fact if this were not a concert movie it would be a pretty decent action film.
There are many beautiful shots, both in Trip’s fight out in the streets and during the actual concert. The editing by Joe Hutshing very rarely goes for multiple quick shots, something seen way too frequently in modern movies, and instead lets the audience enjoy the sight of the camera panning over the multitude of fans jumping in unison as they rock on to their band’s favorite hits, and of Trip being chased by an armed gang.
“Metallica Through the Never” will probably not convert any fans, but it definitely showcases the band’s creativeness during concerts, and features some very impressive action sequences. As a concert movie, this is as good as it gets.
(“Metallica Through the Never” is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.)