TT3D: Closer To The Edge

TT3D: Closer To The Edge

****

Reviewed by: David Graham

The International Isle Of Man Tourist Trophy Race is held on the world's oldest motorcycle racing circuit, 15 miles of winding country road through picturesque towns and over scenic mountains. It's a prestigious championship going back more than a century, where the lure of victory attracts hundreds of participants in spite of the course's deadly reputation; more than 230 riders have lost their lives. It's a statistic that hangs heavy over the carnival atmosphere, but as this riveting documentary shows, it's little more than an accepted fact of life for the entrants and their families.

Opening as the film does with breakneck footage from the front of a bike tearing round the island, the frightening challenge the race represents is evident immediately. Enter self-styled TT bad boy Guy Martin, a mutton-chopped northern speed-freak whose obsessive attention to detail is matched only by his erratic and eccentric behaviour. We're introduced to other prime contenders, including record-breaking perennial champ John McGuinness and the Isle's own boy wonder Conor Cummins, but Martin quite rightly remains the focus throughout, a compulsive presence for his hitherto unfulfilled promise on the course as well as his entertaining homespun philosophies.


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This documentary has obviously been a labour of love for debut feature director Richard De Aragues, who bravely tackles the lethal nature of the event head-on. When the film seems at times to be turning into a promotional tourist reel, the director throws in some staggering statistics to keep the audience on their toes. Ancient slapstick footage of the riders careering into houses is juxtaposed with horrific slow-motion replays of some of the most disturbing crashes of recent memory. As the film progresses through the rigorous prep for the event, tension mounts not only in terms of who will be successful, but in terms of who will be the latest victim.

As the director makes a detour away from the island to take account of the grieving family of a race casualty, the film takes on an unbearably poignant dimension. A widow's bittersweet acceptance of her husband's fate is related over footage that could have been mawkish but effortlessly tugs at the heartstrings; his passion and determination, his lust for life are seen as a positive example to his kids, his sacrifice seen as an entirely worthwhile trade-off for a life lived to the fullest. It throws the rest of the film into sharp relief, as the racers we've come to know and love push themselves further towards victory, it becomes horribly clear that one of them might not be making it over the finish line.

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That the film doesn't descend into sermonising is testament to the balance De Aragues brings to his account; in the end, the event is seen as an insane but awe-inspiring spectacle where the gamble is offset by the glory. For the people of the Isle, it's a tradition they depend upon, the social event of their calendar, where the good will of the crowd is matched only by the camaraderie among the riders. Even for anyone uninterested by motorbikes and racing, Closer To The Edge is a thrilling experience, the 3D sensation really adding to its visceral pull. Memorable for its array of humble and humbling characters as well as its jaw-dropping, white-knuckle footage, this will surely stand as one of the best documentaries of the year.

Reviewed on: 28 Apr 2011
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A 3D documentary look at the thrills and spills of the world's most dangerous road race.
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Director: Richard De Aragues

Starring: Guy Martin, Ian Hutchinson, John McGuinness, Michael Dunlop

Year: 2011

Runtime: 104 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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