Directed by: Richard De Aragues
Released: October 20, 2011
Grade: B+

The Isle Of Man Tourist Trophy (TT) is an annual event where some of the world’s best motorcycle riders compete in a series of races.  I’ll be upfront and say that I’m not a huge fan of the sport and hadn’t even heard of the TT prior to seeing this documentary.

It wasn’t until the narrator mentioned the number of fatalities in the event’s history that the power of the film really kicked in.  Since it began in 1907, there have been a total of 237 deaths either during an official race or practice session on the Snaefell Mountain Course.  That’s an average of more than 2 per year!

My first thought was that these must have occurred during the early years of the race when bike safety wasn’t as strong as it is today.  Nope, that’s not the case.  There have been 10 fatalities in the past 2 years alone – 5 during the TT races held in June and a further 5 during the Manx Grand Prix held in September.

You can now see why British filmmaker Richard De Aragues thought it the perfect subject matter for a feature length documentary.  He throws in a bit of history but his focus is on the 2010 TT event.  We get to see the 5 major races (each with their own drama) and we follow a few of the riders behind the scenes.  It’s riveting stuff.

It’s the death-defying nature of the sport that I’ll remember most strongly from this film.  These races are different from those of the MotoGP that are run on proper tracks with many safety features.  The TT races are run on normal streets.  The town is closed down and the riders navigate their way past houses, hedges and corner stores.  If they have an accident, they’re likely to be flung into someone’s front yard (where a spectator is probably standing by his letterbox and looking at the action).

To give you a further perspective, the final race is 243km long and the winner’s average speed throughout the race is roughly 207km/hr.  I was shaking my head with disbelief as I watched the riders navigate the sharp corners and avoid rock walls by a matter of inches.  De Aragues shows this action from a variety of angles – whether it be a camera strapped to the front of a bike or a helicopter flying high overhead.

The rider given the most amount of screen time is Guy Martin, a 28-year-old trying to notch his first TT win.  His thick British accent is a little tough to understand at times (I almost wish the film had subtitles) but his eccentric behaviour will provide some unexpected laughs.  I was a disappointed that we didn’t get to know some of the other riders a little better but perhaps they lacked Martin’s quirky charm.

They know the risks that they face but it’s part of the reason why these riders love the sport and this particular race so much.  They’re adrenalin junkies and I tip my hat to their bravery / stupidity (I’m not sure which).