The movie follows The Rolling Stones as they perform live at concerts in Italy, Germany and England.
A twinkling black void stretching 52 feet top to bottom and sweeping 64 feet side to side suddenly erupts with a burst of light and colour and sound, and from its depths, impossibly large, impossibly reach-out-and-touchable, the Rolling Stones stride into view and on to the gargantuan stage-set used for the biggest event in the history of rock, the 1990 Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle world tour. At The Max, it is immediately apparent, is no ordinary concert film; viewing it no ordinary cinema-going experience.
Seamlessly stitching together footage from five shows in Turin, Berlin and Wembley, Julian Temple et al. have created a concert film to end all others using the extraordinary giant Imax filming technique which can be screened only at the limited number of cinemas capable of utilising the system. From explosive start to magical finish, every detail of a Stones' concert is heightened with razor-sharp images reproduced at ten times the size of normal 35mm film and six-track surround sound so penetrating that at its UK venue, Bradford's National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, they can only run the film at night for fear of distracting other visitors. This, however, is more than just a wall of earsplitting noise : Stones' producer Chris Kimsey mixed the sound in such a way that the viewer is surrounded only by sounds appropriate to the image - Keith Richards steps forward for a solo and his guitar sound becomes noticeably more distinct.
Indeed, Temple achieves a tremendous sense (both aural and visual) of the band as a whole working unit. While Jagger fans can marvel at his every wrinkle and open pore, the 47-year-old does not, in marked contrast to previous Stones' works (Gimme Shelter, Ladies And Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones), hog every frame. And, given the scale of the thing, it would be hard to do so. Close-ups of the band are revealing - the sheer joy of what they do, in particular, writ large on every face (miserable Bill Wyman excepted) - but for absolute take-your-breath-away scale it is the wide and long shots which work to most spectacular effect.
If regretfully low on behind-the-scenes revelations (a tantalising glimpse of the band warming up backstage is all), this is more than made up for when you look out across a 100,000 crowd of seething bodies, look up into the night sky at a hovering helicopter, look round at Mick and Bill and Keith and Charlie and Ron, and, for one fleeting moment, feel you really are up there with them.