“Just because you’re breathing doesn’t mean you’re alive”
High speed motorcycling racing is a dangerous sport. If you participate in an event on public roads, surrounded by brick walls and other immovable objects, with virtually no barriers and travel at speeds up to 200 mph, you are placing yourself at extreme risk.
Such is the Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy), the race is world famous and infamous in equal measure. Riders die most years and on occasion several deaths occur if luck is against them. There is a pause and then racing continues, seemingly without missing a beat.
This documentary follows one rider Guy Martin closely but also has screen time for many of his competitors. Martin, a truck mechanic by trade, is a successful rider but has never won the TT and he wants to win really, really badly.
Martin is a documentary Director’s dream. Adored by the fans, he always has something amusing or controversial to say, is a bit of a bad boy and is eccentric or a bit bonkers, dependant on your personal opinion. Certainly his sponsor seems to know what he has bought into, clearly taking the rough with the smooth without complaint.
There is virtually no money at stake, personal glory and bragging rights are all that are on offer.
The riders, their families and support groups all exhibit a fatalistic attitude to the risks, “if it’s my time, then it’s my time” is the mood most on display. The film does not flinch from showing accidents but they are handled sensitively and there is nothing graphic on display here.
Clearly this race means a lot to the participants and those involved, one steward choking up just talking about the race and the friends he has made from all over the world.
Martin is great copy, showing childish wonder at an expensive steadicam one moment and blowing off officials, the press and race etiquette the next.
Director Richard De Aragues also takes the time to show the impact on those families paying the ultimate price, the wife of one rider admitting how much she would miss the race, just before another life is claimed.
The film is all about speed and Aragues conveys this well, a first person perspective gives some idea of the madness of travelling at such speeds on small country roads. A static shot that builds and recedes, is most telling and amply demonstrates the sheer velocity the bikes travel at.
This does introduce some interesting questions on personal freedoms in our Health and Safety obsessed world, should anyone be allowed to participate in such deadly pursuit, where death lurks around every corner. The film does not touch on these views and whilst the IOM retains it’s own laws and ways, the race is unlikely to be stopping any time soon.
As one racer says, racing is better than sex, better than drugs and even when mangled and torn, the riders first thought is to recover, so they can race again.
What motivates some is hard to fathom, for Martin this clearly is his life. For others with young families, dutifully putting their affairs in order and cutting the grass beforehand, the driving force is harder to understand.
Madness, certainly but for some, living a life without speed and danger is no life at all.
Also available in 3D
An excellent documentary, which does exactly what it says on the tin and more.
Fast bikes, raced at crazy speeds on public roads with enough personal background included for you to care for the riders and their loved one’s.
Recommended, even if you are not a motorcycle racing fan