TT street racing, despite its continuing controversies, is embedded into the sporting culture of Northern Ireland. Every year avid bike fans will come from all over the world to spectate, participate and experience in the legendary North West 200. Yet shamefully it’s not something I’ve personally ever been a huge fan of, mainly because I’ve never taken the time to really get to know the in’s and out’s the sport. So asking me to watch a documentary about the première event of the calender year, the Isle of Man TT could potentially be asking for trouble. Boy was I wrong…
The documentary, narrated by American actor and 30 Seconds to Mars frontman, Jared Leto centres mainly on the eccentric, maverick racer Guy Martin as he prepares in his own unique way for the biggest motorcycle event of the year. Through this the audience is taken through all the build up preparation, including the various backgrounds to each of the main racers including, John McGuinness, Michael Dunlop, Ian Hutchinson and Paul Dobbs.
The feature does a tremendous job of being accessible to people, such as myself, who have little knowledge of the sport in full detail. First time director Richard de Aragues should be applauded for stocking the film with tonnes of emotion and nerve-shattering tension as well. By the time the credits rolled I felt like I had been on a total roller-coaster with these men. These larger than life characters congregating together in probably the best sporting film I’ve seen since Zinedine Zidane kicked a football for nearly 90 minutes to the sounds of Mogwai.
Guy Martin was an intriguing character, more so because I probably needed subtitles to understand what it was, he was saying throughout most of the film. In a way he was a curious soul, an ultimate underdog, a universal fan favourite because of his outlandish personality. Yet also coming across as a difficult person to work with, on the racecourse, due to his unpredictable nature. Due to this he was the perfect person to create a genuine cinematic experience out of something which could have easily been just a bog standard, middle of the road, documentary.
The most publicised aspect of TT street racing is one of its darkest most harrowing aspects also, and to the film’s credit it never shys away from the harsh reality that these men essentially and willingly put their lives on the line every time they step onto that race track. Some of the images featured can be pretty hard hitting, such as seeing Guy Martin’s bike blow-up in a fiery blaze, or watching Ian Hutchinson have his leg torn to pieces or even quite tragically witnessing the death of Paul Dobbs on the racetrack during 2010’s event.
It’s hard sitting in the cinema watching something like this, reminding yourself there are no controlled explosions or choreographed stunts or acting involved. This is real life and the lives affected by these men’s reckless thrill seeking actions paint can quite a tragic picture. Yet the racers, when speaking about it, often remain philosophical about the risks. As Martin says in the closing moments, no one makes them do it, they want to do it and if you’re scared something might happen, you’re clearly in the wrong sport.
The film also does a great service of paying tribute to fallen heroes, such as one of the greatest sportsman to hail from my home country, the legendary Joey Dunlop who after achieving some amazing feats died in a charity race in July 2000. Which should be quite emotional scenes, along with the montage of his dearly departed brother, Robert – who suffered death on the race course a year later – for anyone local reading this review.
On a technical level TT3D was beautifully shot, and in most instances the 3D did largely work. My feelings have been made abundantly clear in past reviews of other films on the format but I think just the thought of the gimmick, this time round, might draw people in, who would never consider going to see this. And trust me when I say, you’ll be better off for the experience.
TT3D: Closer to the Edge offers more than what it simply says on the poster. An action packed, emotionally draining and ultimately very harrowing insight into one of Britain’s most controversial sports. Let yourself be taken on a ride with some truly likeable working-class sports stars, and you might even find yourself coming out as a fan because of it. I know I did.
TT3D was part of the 2011 Belfast Film Festival.
It should be released across the UK, in selected theatres, from April 22nd 2011.