TT3D: Closer To The Edge
Details: (M), 103 mins, In Cinemas 20 October 2011, United Kingdom, English
Synopsis: The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy is the greatest motorcycle road race in the world, the ultimate challenge for rider and machine. It has always called for a commitment far beyond any other racing event, and many have made the ultimate sacrifice in their quest for victory. By vividly recounting the TT's legendary rivalries and the Isle of Man's unique road racing history, this 3D feature documentary will discover why modern TT riders still risk their lives to win the world's most dangerous race. A story about freedom of choice, the strength of human spirit and the will to win. It's also an examination of what motivates those rare few, this elite band of brothers who risk everything to win.Narrated by Jared Leto.
Motorace madness sticks to the safe track.
TT3D: Closer to the Edge begins with the usual deification of sporting greatness. “There is nothing to compare it to,” are the first words spoken, heard over the top of typically atmospheric slow-motion footage of bikes and riders preparing for the annual Tourist Trophy (TT) road race series on the Isle of Man. So far, so Sunday afternoon. But as Richard de Aragues’ 3D documentary unfurls, you come to realise that the opening words have dual meaning: the week of races are not just physically and mentally taxing, requiring masterful technique to prosper, they are also astoundingly dangerous. It’s nigh on impossible to think of another sporting competition where fatalities are the yearly norm.
Racing on everyday roads at speeds of up to 300 km/p/h, the competitors face the very real prospect of death. The 59 kilometres of track includes over 200 corners, most of them marked with white lines and stone fences; house and steep drops dot the route. By the start of the 2010 event that the movie covers, 231 riders have died since the race began in 1907, a death toll that has seen the event divorced from official motorcycling bodies. At various points riders have to dip and rise to get around an inconvenient lamppost, and sadly two more names are added to the list of riders lost during the seven days of competition.
In such circumstances, where existential doubts are never far removed, you need a special protagonist. The film has a young, blankly talented professional rider in Ian Hutchinson, second generation Irish champion Michael Dunlop and veteran champion John McGuinness, but none of them come close to – and thus get as much screen time as – 28-year-old English maverick Guy Martin. The Lincolnshire racer and mechanic is like a Ricky Gervais character come to life, offering up a continual self-commentary about winning a TT race and various other seemingly unrelated topics.
“I’m not gay, I hope,” decides Martin, who hasn’t taken much notice of his sexuality because it gets in the way of racing motorbikes. Looking like a proto-rock star, the rider is the kind of Englishman who once came up with daft ideas to blow up large amounts of Germans and actually pulled it off. “Worse things happen at sea,” he habitually notes, and his obsessive ambition to triumph comes with a cavalier charm instead of monomaniacal quiet.
The film indulges the 3D process, whether it’s racing scenes or a jolly engine designer, Chris Mayhew, enjoying a cup of tea. The camera is on board numerous bikes and hoisted aloft by helicoptors, and you get a sense of the constant vibration and minute adjustments require to win, or just stay alive. But the sheer speed involved sometimes defeats the technology – the most telling shot is simply a locked-off camera on the side of the road, with the bikes as an indistinguishable blur, their screaming roar a second or two later and then the hushed settling of dust.
But as much as TT3D: Closer to the Edge tells you about the specifics of the race, it can’t quite make sense of the mindset that sends eagerly hundreds of men and women out there each year; even an amputee who has lost his hand in a previous year returns to compete in sidecars. Jared Leto’s mid-Atlantic narration makes reference to a “band of brothers”, but that’s essentially guff. As much as they make noises about camaraderie, the leading riders are all sealed off within their teams, searching out stray seconds and smiling blithely when the small matter of dying is raised.
Even the widow of one of the competitors lost during the film professes happiness that he passed away doing what he loved, and in the face of such sentiment you’re left with the nagging doubt that there’s some kind of psychological fissure that needs to be uncovered. But the movie never makes sense of it.
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