Battle Mountain: Graeme Obree's Story


Reviewed by: Luke Shaw

Battle Mountain
"As compelling as it is humourous."

Graeme Obree, known colloquially as The Flying Scotsman, is one of the world’s most interesting cyclists. Largely overshadowed by his friend Chris Hoy in present times, he is still setting himself impossible goals and creating his own custom bikes. Battle Mountain is the story of his attempt at the human powered land speed record, as well as a candid biography of a unique man.

To try and understand why Graeme is still so determined to push his 48 year old body to breaking on a regular basis is futile. David Street carefully unpacks what it takes to allow a man to have such focus and determination. As Obree constructs his prone bike, “Beastie” from spare parts using decidedly non technological methods, he articulates his thought process and feelings behind matters. At times, it's hard to keep up with his brain which understands cycling in a way that seems akin to genius. At others it is difficult to not be taken aback by the frankness with which he speaks about his suicide attempts, his own peculiar psychology, and the events that have shaped him.

Copy picture

There’s no fanfare here. Footage is economic and straightforward, recording the highs and lows of this journey, creating a document that serves to prove that trying is as important as succeeding. It's unlikely Obree feels the same way, as success and obsession drive him, though Street’s filming never seems voyeuristic. In the hands of a more sensationalist director or editor, the attention given to Graeme’s careful retelling of emotional events could feel exploitative or crass, but instead the frankness of it simply aids the natural feel of the film.

Insights into the construction of the beastie are fascinating even for someone as non-mechanically minded as myself, and following the construction from day one is as compelling as it is humourous, with Graeme hacking up everything from saucepans to rollerblades in order to match the image he has in his mind.

Whereas most sporting documentaries focus on rivalries and challenges, that ground was already covered in The Flying Scotsman, and instead this is a more contemplative examination into the dedication and peculiarities that are required to consistently aim for the stars.

Reviewed on: 28 Jun 2015
Share this with others on...
A documentary about one man and his bike.
Amazon link

Director: David Street

Starring: Graeme Obree

Year: 2015

Runtime: 99 minutes

Country: UK


EIFF 2015

Search database: