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Move over Senna, Guy Martin just roared into town!
TT : Closer to the Edge (DVD)
Member Name: thedevilinme
TT : Closer to the Edge (DVD)
Date: 18/01/12, updated on 20/01/12 (68 review reads)
Advantages: One hell of a ride!
Disadvantages: No oe has seen it to matter
Run Time -104 minutes
Certificate - 15
Country - UK
Genre - Documentary (2011)
You're an astonishing 61 times more likely to die on British roads riding a motorbike than being in a car, and if you add pedestrian deaths to the yearly road carnage toll, cars suddenly become a whole lot safer. The statistic gets a whole lot worse at the legendary TT, the world famous open bike races held on the Isle of Man, the subject of this exhilarating and nerve shredding documentary that even puts the film Senna in the shade, neither, rather outrageously, nominated for Oscars this year.
The prestigious event recently held its centenary, so far 237 deaths recorded on race days and official practices in that 100 glorious years. The math's are pretty easy on just how dangerous this event is and if you throw in 'Mad Sunday', the day the track is open to the fans on their road bikes to bomb around the track (after a few beers or eating the contents of an ashtray in some cases), you can add another couple of hundred to that score. Because the track is an open hill and street circuit mix with little protection for the riders and open to the elements you dont want to be clipping walls or curbs at 120mph, landing in some kids paddling pool, decapitations not unusual at the festival. Therefore it was no surprise it was taken off any official motor sport race series when the bigger sponsors started to get involved.
As a superbike clears its throat with a macho growl, the film starts with a racers eye view of the terrifying 37.2 mile lap, which consists of 200 corners, 1900 hay bails, 154 lampposts and 15 telephone boxes and plenty of stone walls and hedges that whiz and shimmer by as the bike and rider seem to be vibrating into another dimension on screen, truly terrifying stuff. The film was also shot in 3D on Cinetron and so I suspect that opening sequence looks amazing on the big screen. Unfortunately few people ever got to see this film in the cinema as it had a limited release due to no lottery money to publicize it, making just £1.5 million pounds to date. That PR money is so important now and around 25% of funding for films such as the Kings Speech.
The narrative follows the build up to the 2010 event, seen through the eyes of rebel biker Guy Martin, the dressed all in black brooding racer and man of the people, yet to win the race and always the nearly man, the Jimmy White of TT racing. Anyone can enter the races if they qualify quick enough and the full time mechanic from Yorkshire is obsessed with winning one of the big five races that matter held during the festival and it will be on his terms only, a man who loves to rub the officials up the wrong way, probably why he has yet to win the race, a time penalty here or disqualification there happening a lot for our Guy. With his maddening wide eyes, go faster sideburns and infectious shy smile and the love of doing it his way the fans love him back, and the women if they would let him, Guy having no time for that sort of thing, bikes his only passion, his hard pressed privateer owner determined to stick by his bloody-minded roar talent to make sure he wins to give the story a happy ending, however many rows and races that takes. Guy doesn't want kids and romance as he knows he may not come out of the other end of this sport and so all that stuff would be selfish. He has a point. The sport is not so much an accident waiting to happen for Guy but inevitability.
His main challengers are Ian Hutchinson, 17 times winner and lap record holder John McGuiness (131.27 mph around the 37.2 mile course), young Aussie Cameron Donald and Michael Dunlop, the son of the great Joey Dunlop, the races record winner with 26 victories, who died in a smash at low key event a week after the 2000 TT festival.
-Record race winners-
Joey Dunlop 26
John McGuinness 17
Mike Hailwood 14
Dave Molyneux 14
Steve Hislop 11
Phillip McCallen 11
Giacomo Agostini 10
Robert Fisher 10
Ian Lougher 10
Stanley Woods 10
As Guy prepares for race week, with his old man down in the oil and grease with him, a gnarly type who also raced the TT, its clear winning the race is an unhealthy obsession for Guy and the freedom that bike racings brings him matters more than his life. I wouldn't say he has a death wish but, like the Mafia, there is no retirement from this line of work if you chase too hard what you desire or deserve. And once he has won it once will he want to win it again and again? As the man says: 'life is only worth living because we die'.
As race day arrives its not long before Guy is in trouble, a petty rule break already having the stewards not on side, this time for riding his race bike around the streets of the town during banned periods for that sort of meandering. You know he loves being a rebel and the pat on the backs it gets him from the fellow bikers but he clearly can't see how that will always work against him from the egos of officialdom, this week, their week too, and just once a year.
With 31-year-old Hutchinson winning the first race of the five with Martin on the pace and losing it on a 30 second time penalty it's obvious the stewards are out to stop the guy for the most minor of transgressions, if just to tame that big mouth during the meet. A second place behind Hutchinson in round two lifts the gloom but he refuses to be on time for the rostrum to get his laurel and cup in protest of yesterday's penalty, incurring yet more trouble and his bike impounded by the same stewards. When Hutchinson wins race three after Martins bike breaks down the film then throws up a spinnaker as it goes around the buoy and becomes Guy versus Hutchinson for the home stretch, no racer ever winning all five races and so the pressure increased on both, pressure that can cause big accidents. Its nerve jangling stuff as we find out which glorious or, indeed, terrible fete befalls these two mad men and those around them.
Whereas Senna didn't quite give you the full punch in the face it delivers for those who knew the Senna story, and did for those who didn't, like when you watch Apollo 13 for the first time and astounded to learn its a true story, Closer to the Edge is the same deal for those who know little about bike racing, and especially the TT. It's an extraordinary event and this film a real eye-opener to the type of people involved and the psyche to even get on the bike. The way they brush their knee pads on walls and pull their head in at the last moment as a lamppost approaches, just to nick that extra tenth of a second, is wincing stuff. We already know how dangerous it is and we are reassured of that with some archive footage of accidents of old and how the old legends and tries died during the race, often Carry On style, even a clip from that TT film with George Formby. We also see the crashes from the 2010 race and this poor chap flying off a hilly corner and his airborne tumble caught on camera by the helicopter, his death only stopped by clipping an old stone wall with sheep's wool in the barbed wire to soften the blow. Owww! The event is like downhill skiing on concrete.
The tension side to the film is will the guy survive the week and I fully recommend you see this for that thrill alone, as macabre as that sounds. The buzz of motorsport is often the stuff we don't want to talk about. As the bikes sweep and roar through the narrow streets and across the green and pleasant land of the Isle of Man like those Argentine jet fighters bombing the Falklands all those years ago you cant help but get fully involved in this. Like I said, unless you're a bike fan and you don't know about the main protagonists you will get the full hit here and wont know what happens at the end, who lives and who wins - and who dies. Whereas the Tour de France makes headlines when someone cheats to win, the only time the TT makes the news is when someone important is killed on the track. It is that type of race, the fear the attraction for both riders and crowd. And some of those punters are close up too, even less protected than the riders, one scene seeing a mum and dad with their two toddlers watching the bikes whizz by from the front garden of their idyllic cottage, all but three feet away from the helmets, surreal indeed, one twitch on the corner before and you dare not think about it. But its that family event feel that add the extra dimension here, no hangers on here, young kids barely out of middle-school doing the main scoreboards and grandpa and grandma sweeping the track up of broken fearing in their fluorescent jackets. It just looks the best fun to be involved in this event in some way.
Like I say It didn't do great in the box-office as no one has heard of it, 'Senna' getting all of the attention, sites like dooyoo and ciao enabling me to pass the word on, the film very much a labor of love by directed Richard De Aragues than any sort of cynical money making exercise as we are tempted by carnage. And if you loved Senna or thinking about seeing it then you guys have to see this too as I think its even better, a cracking job for a debut movie director and for its working-class hero star in Guy Martin...
Imdb.com - Scores it 8.1 out of 10.0 (1,245 votes)
Rottentomatos.com - 100% critics approval rating
Metacritc.com - 90% critics approval rating
The Guardian - "The speeds on such narrow, winding public roads are hair-raising and superbly photographed, the crashes spectacular and the riders far more likable than anyone involved in Formula One".
The LA Times - "With history offering a fatality for every corner and more than five per mile, your heart will be in your mouth watching the likes of maverick rider Guy Martin go hell for leather in search of his dream of winning just one race"
The Independent - "It's a saturnalia of excitement, saturated with thrills and a sense of danger that is almost spiritual".
The Times - "Impressively directed and beautifully shot, this is a superb documentary that's by turns thrilling, heart-breaking, jaw-dropping and laugh-out-loud funny...
News of the World - "You'd have to be a right helmet to miss it".
Scary road stats for bikers and other intriguing ones....
Summary: Great british film is still going strong
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