Dir: Richard De Aragues. UK. 2011. 103mins
Exhilarating, exciting and packed with a fascinating group of real-life characters, against all the odds this enthralling 3-D documentary about the Isle of Man TT motorcycle races could turn out to be a real left-field British success, benefiting from rave reviews, good word-of-mouth and a petrol-head fan base. The film should attract savvy distribs and festivals invites a-plenty.
The surprise package of the film is the charismatic Guy Martin.
Racing on public roads around the tiny Isle of Man – situated just off the North East coast of England – the modern-day motorcycles hit speeds of around 200mph. The TT races have been held on the island for more than 100 years, with racers flocking to the event for the challenge and dangers of road racing, with drama, tension and death regular parts of each TT race.
The film follows the leading riders as they take part in the 2010 race, following their preparations and also their actual races, while also interweaves photographs and older footage of races over then years, featuring crashes and successes over the decades.
The filmmakers chose to follow a handful of the leading riders…and they certainly a mixed bunch of characters, ranging from loveable rogue Guy Martin on his number 8 motorbike whose antics exasperate sponsors and race officials alike, through to the gently spoken Ian Hutchinson, who is quietly determined and focussed.
Also in the mix are John McGuinness, the 15 times TT winner who arrives on the island in his plush tour bus (as compared to Martin, who sleeps in the back of his white van) and local Isle of Man rider Conor Cummins, hugely popular on the island.
By focussing on these determined and talented riders – as well as their support team and families 103-year history of the TT and its blend of excitement and tragedy. The new 3-D footage of the 2010 races are terrific and atmospheric, but equally good is the 3-D conversion of the archival material, photographs and found footage.
The surprise package of the film is the charismatic Guy Martin, and it is clear to see that the filmmakers quickly understood his oddball everyman charm (and strange obsession with talking about masturbation) as well as his obvious idiosyncratic motorcycling skills. Genial and fun as well as obsessive and prickly, he is a striking character, and to an extent is the driving force of the film.
The TT races have always been about danger, and at the 2010 event New Zealand rider Paul Dobbs was killed on the Ballegarey section of the track. The film features moving and extraordinary footage with his wife Bridget and their two young daughters back in New Zealand, where she says:” I’ve lost my husband, but the TT is still magical. It’s bigger the guys who are here today.”
The drama of the 2010 race plays heavily in the film. With Ian Hutchinson winning a series of the races the pressure is on Guy Martin to achieve his first victory. The film climaxes with local hero Conor Cummins sliding off the mountainside in a spectacular crash and Guy Martin and his bike disappearing in an explosion that sees the race stopped for the only the second time in its history.
The final coda sees a series of these badly injured men in hospital or on crutches simply talking about how soon they will be back on their bikes again and future plans to compete in the TT.
Production company: CinemaNX. Isle of Man Film
International sales: Hanway Films, www.hanwayfilms.com
Producers: Steve Christian, Marc Samuelson
Co-producers: Richard Hewitt, Andrew Fingret
Cinematography: Thomas Kuerzl
Stereography: Chris Parks
Editor: Beverley Mills
Music: Andy Gray
Narrator: Jared Leto