Wednesday, October 5, 2011

TT3D : Closer To The Edge

 It is ironic that I spent the day doing a small repair on my car that I then buggered off to the flicks and watched a motorsport documentary. Now first off let me get something straight. I am not a bike fan. Not in the sense of not watching them but riding them. They have never been of any interest to me what so ever. But give me a muscle car and I go all weak at the knees and into petrol heaven!!

 Admittedly I also don't watch a lot of motorsport. Not because I'm not interested, it is mainly because I really don't watch  a lot of television full stop. Many find it strange that because I love cars so much that I don't watch them on a track all weekend. I don't see the necessary correlation myself. Just because I'm interested and trained in military history I never felt the need, or urge, to be recruited in the New Zealand Army.

 But I digress somewhat!! The Isle of Mann TT is an annual event that attracts thousands each year to watch a bunch of mad bastards on motorbikes hurtle around the island at ridiculous speeds. In the annals of motorbike racing this is considered the pinnacle, let alone the best track to race on in the world. TT3D : Closer to the Edge is a 2010 documentary produced my CinemaNX, a Isle of Mann film company that is backed by the government. It basically follows two individual professional motorcycle riders as they prepare for and then race in 2010's TT.

The somewhat eccentric Guy Martin.
 But whilst the main focus is on two particular riders, Guy Martin and Ian Hutchinson, it does in a peripheral way encompass others. Modern TT record breaker John McGuinness is looked at even though a very minor participant. Manx rider 24 year old Conor Cummins is as well, again though in a minor way. Cummins is no surprise considering it is an Isle of Mann event and the Manx would have an interest in the local boy. The doco also takes in others involved in the race like stewards, officials, spectators,etc. Their views are used to illustrate the feel and vibe of the race and how those not racing  effect it and are affected by it. As an example in one short segment the fastest woman ever in the TT adds her views on the speed of the event and how she is coming to terms to having to go faster against her instincts of the risks. 
 So the doco is extremely well crafted and edited. I like how all the angles of the event are touched on and fit into its 103 minute running time. But the Isle of Mann is a long time event and this isn't the first doco/film made like this. I remember a similar doco that screened on NZ telly in 1988 that done a similar thing. Believe it or not I actually watched it with a uncle of mine who emigrated from......The Isle of Mann!! The thing I recall most about that doco was a ferry sinking on the crossing to the Isle. The bike owners subsequently had to strip their salvaged bikes down completely and wash the parts in petrol. The angle was similar to, concentrating on the people and characters, rather than becoming a dry technical piece on the bikes themselves.

2010 record breaker Ian Hutchinson.
And this is the strength of the doco. It is very much about the human element and what drives the riders in their almost suicidal pursuit. Remember the Isle of Mann course is actually a public road and not a circuit or track. It has all the pitfalls of trees, walls, houses, lamp posts, cliffs, fences, telephone boxes etc etc etc. All of which add to the danger of the race. But it is this very element of risk the riders come to pit themselves against. At one stage one rider comments that whilst circuits and track racing is faster it is less challenging than racing on open roads. I agree that it makes for better viewing as well. The races I like watching are either street races or open road, well away from a track.

The crafting here is also superb in not just taking a whole heap of racing action and over laying it with commentary. The main protagonists are seen but aren't interviewed in a classical sense. One is a mechanic and is interviewed at work under a truck!! So we get to see the riders as people rather than just as professional riders. At one stage Guy Martin talks about wanking before going to sleep in the back of his van in his early career!This is a film that gets into the hearts, minds and passions in a determined attempt to portray the, why. Why put they put themselves at such obvious risk. And this being a Isle of Mann doco there are enough crashes to remind the viewer of the risks.

 Over the years there have been over 200 riders killed during the event. During the 2010 race there was a fatality involving NZ rider Paul Dobbs. The doco has a short piece with his widow and how she has dealt with the loss, and what it means to have lost her hubbie to something he loved doing. Again the human element. One of the two riders the doco follows also crashes in the final race. Whilst not killed he is seriously injured and is shown in hospital vowing he'll be back!

 This is Guy Martin the truck mechanic. The doco is wonderful because the two riders are so different in style and personality. Martin is very much the character, larrikan, and eccentric maverick. He comes across as almost not having the steel of professionalism needed to be a top rider. But his mechanical knowledge and riding ability supplant his image. His crash is incredible because it happened at 170mph. The bike burst into flames and Martin himself slid along the road for 1/4 from the impact point!! He suffered cracked vertebrae, a punctured lung, broke several ribs, and received multiple burns from sliding on the road. Apparently when the medics got to him he was adamant they weren't to cut his leathers off him! Incredible that he was actually conscious to say so as well!

 The young Manx rider's crash is horrific and was actually filmed. He loses control of his bike which then flies off a small hill. We quite clearly see him fly through the air, hit a stone wall, and then tumble down a grass hill to a stop. He broke his back in five places, had a bruised lung, broke a leg in four places, etc. It is incredible to behold when you watch the crash. At one stage he shows us the scene and the viewer can quite clearly see the paint from his bike or leather overalls on the road and scarily,  the wall he hit. He is lucky to be alive, but he also says he'll be back because racing bikes is what he enjoys doing.

 But the juxtaposition here is that of  Ian Hutchinson. It is amazing to think that when the film makers started filming they could have had no idea how that years race was going to pan out. There was the possibility of one rider, or both, actually being killed. Martin did his best to fulfil that possibility! But what is wonderful is how Martin had his trials and tribulations throughout the four races he took part in. He was competitive and came in no lower than fourth in those four races. In the last race he swapped the lead several times before he crashed .

Plenty of this type of action....only faster!!
 But the remarkable thing is that with the doco crew there Hutchinson entered the record books by winning all five TT races of the event. He was the first rider to ever do so with the previous record being four. It is a wonderful backdrop to the doco which the makers must have been thanking their lucky stars happened with them there to film it all! The film also squeezes in a bit of history especially with regards to TT legend John McGuinness who has won more TT races than any other rider. He had a poor year in 2010 and didn't feature as such, but there is footage of his previous races. Also there is footage and short pieces on previous greats of the race. Included to is some background information on the race from its inception, with some footage from the early 20th century, showing dirt roads and creeks as part of the track!

 So yes this doco has it all and it is impressively made. I admire how so much has been fitted into its running time, from a bit of history, to the views of those not racing, and those who are. Every possible angle has seemingly been covered. I mean at one stage we are in a Porsche with an ex racer who survived a horror crash. He drives the viewer around the track and talks us through how to tackle a certain corner and at what speed. It really is a superbly made documentary and impossible to fault. The best thing about it is that it concentrates on the people and not the bikes. In other words there is no technical details here at all. If you want bore & stroke of that particular bike, or the compression of that one, you will be disappointed. It isn't that type of doco. It is about getting insides the hearts and minds of those involved in a high risk sport, and why they love what they do in spite of the risks.

 My only criticism is that at times, with the footage taken from on board the bikes, was that it tended to focus the viewers head to the very top of the screen. I was sitting at the back and yet found my eyes and neck hurting as I was looking almost at the roof. I know it is impossible to change the angles of the camera, etc, but these scenes were difficult to watch and I found myself looking away to save my neck. The other thing is that I really don't think it needed to be made into 3-D. It didn't really bring anything to the film and would have been just a good without it. I'm not a 3-D fan anyway. I would have preferred the 2-D option, as paying $3 more for something ultimately unnecessary, gets on my nerves!

So in short this is as fine a documentary as you can hope to see. Even if motorsports, or motorbikes in particular, aren't your thing just the quality of this must be seen to be believed. I'm impressed by it even with just a passing interest in bike racing. It is a finely made documentary that obviously knew what it wanted to be and achieve, even being filming started. It captures every conceivable angle of the Isle of Mann TT whilst concentrating on two riders specifically. It takes a large event and humanises it. This is so that those without  interest or knowledge of it can understand the hype, and love it brings to those who flock there every year, whether rider or not.

 An excellent documentary which I give an unhesitating 10/10 . Simply the best, coolest cool film of the year by far.

 Click here for a synopsis and more. I recommend this wikipedia link as it links to individual profiles of some of the riders and their careers:

 And here for more:


  1. Great write up as usual!

    If they ever make a documentary of this scale on the North West it will hopefully be as good as this one sounds.

    Thank god when I find this one on dvd it wont be 3D


  2. That is absolutely bizarre if this didn't play or had a limited release where you are. I mean where is The Isle of Mann and Ireland again? They are neighbours aren't they??? That really is bizarre! You'd think a UK wide release would be a given considering it is a UK dominated/held event.
    But yes this is an excellent doco and a genuine 10/10. I'm sure you will think the same when you get it on DVD. Senna has ben playing sporadically around the country but not here. Even in the NZFF it didn't screen near me. Looks like a DVD watch, if it manages even that!