Jump London

Jump London


Reviewed by: Josh Morrall

Back in September of 2003, Jump London premiered at prime time on Channel 4. It was the most expensive documentary commissioned by the company for the whole year and gained major press coverage. The idea of following three Frenchmen around London as they performed the art of free running inside and on top of some of the city's most prestigious landmarks had seemed ridiculous to most producers, and indeed, it could have been seen in the same light by Channel 4 viewers. It wasn't, and free running was given a launch pad with which to capture the imagination of an entire country.

Sebastien Foucan, Jerome Ben Aoues and Johann Vigroux are three Frenchmen who have been practising the "discipline" of free running for most of their lives. The art form originates from Foucan's desire to express himself in the strict confines of the small French town, Lisses, where he grew up, in which there was very little for a young man to do. Jump London reviews the evolution of Free Running up to when it was featured in adverts for Toyota and Nike. Now, the extreme sport of la parkour is coming to London, as the three runners take on the Albert Hall, Tate Modern, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and the streets of Soho to name but a few of the central landmarks that are about to be hit by free running.

The idea of exposing an urban sport like free running in the more magisterial buildings of London is a good one, but this documentary takes itself far too seriously. Foucan is the original free runner as it was he who created and named the sport. Unfortunately, he cares to look at it as more of a "discipline" within which one can express all of their desires. I remained unconvinced throughout and my interest was held only because of the incredible abilities that the runners have. The jumps are worth waiting for and you come to accept that they are surrounded by a lot of fluff. Foucan tries to explain why it is a science and why it is something highly original that he has created, but in the end, he cannot blind you from the fact that he has never worked a day in his life. The scene where the runners visit a skate park sums up the underlying emptiness of what they do: free running is no different from skateboarding in terms of freedom of expression.

Furthermore, the entire idea behind this documentary is merely a pretence to show off the runners' skills. The fact that they do not need a pretence, does not seem to matter though. The runners are French, this is inescapable, and yet the producers try to involve the English audience by showing the stunts performed around London landmarks, suggesting that the capital will never be the same again. They came. They ran. They jumped. And no one noticed.

This documentary lacks honesty. It presents the sport as a lot more dramatic than it actually is and uses London to gain viewers that probably would have watched the programme anyway, because the content is, at times, amazing. Instead, a flaccid excuse for why it's all happening here acts as the glue for a weak bundle of interviews, back story and jumping.

The jumping should have been the centre, with all aspects revolving around that. Instead, London was the centre. This is a monumental flaw in the documentary, which can be forgotten about if you indulge in the spectacle of it all, but ultimately, it leaves you feeling empty because the substance is superficial.

Overall, Jump London relies on the sport of free running to provide the entertainment of the documentary. The mistake is that they try to make a legend out of something that has only just begun, which undermines the skills involved. The content is stretched thin over the hour and there are far too few jumps, but the spectacle, no matter how false, is undeniably impressive.

Reviewed on: 06 Jul 2004
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Jump London packshot
Three suicidal Frenchmen take on London’s landmarks as they bring free running to the UK.
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Director: Mike Christie

Starring: Sebastien Foucan, Jerome Ben Aoues, Johann Vigroux

Year: 2003

Runtime: 60 minutes

Country: UK


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