Film Review: Placebo: Coming Up For Air

A film that documents Placebo’s world tour in 2009 and 2010, Charlie Targett-Adams’ Coming Up For Air is essential viewing for fans of the band. Other viewers will be less enthralled by proceedings, although the documentary is never boring.

To promote their album ‘Battle for the Sun’, music band Placebo embarked on a lengthy tour that saw them playing diverse locations all over the globe. The film follows the band on tour, illustrating a life of travelling, preparation, performances and interviews…

Placebo: Coming Up For Air is a documentary that is based solely on the tour, rather than being a biographical look at the band. This is not to say that elements of the band’s history are not touched upon under the wider remit. Nonetheless, the emphasis remains on their tour and aspects relating to this.

Charlie Targett-Adams crafts the film well. There appears to be a considered method to how the documentary pans out. Different topics are compartmentalised so that each area is dealt with in its own segment. Owing to this, the film feels like it has more of a narrative than some other documentaries.

Throughout the film, the band members are interviewed about touring, their music, and dealing with the side effects of their profession. Unsurprisingly, Brian Molko dominates in terms of screen time. Insights offered by Molko and other members of the band are interesting for the most part. Perhaps most fascinating are the scenes focused on drummer Steve Forrest. As a relative newcomer, his views seem both objective and subjective in talking about the band and the impact the tour has had on him personally.

There is a little too much footage of locations in Coming Up For Air, sometimes at the expense of footage of the band. Given that the documentary is about the tour, it would have been pleasing to see more footage of Placebo playing, even just as images accompanying the interview track. A more encompassing selection of the band’s music would have also been welcome. Long-term fans would have surely appreciated some of Placebo’s older songs.

Placebo: Coming Up For Air is not a definitive documentary. Nevertheless, it is successful in shining a light on Placebo and rarely seen aspects of touring worldwide.

Placebo: Coming Up For Air was screened at Sundance London on 28th April 2012. The film was followed by a Q & A session with the director and the band.