The Crash Reel (4 stars)

The Crash Reel

Compelling documentary about snowboarder Kevin Pearce and his life after a near-death crash

'Why do you want to dance?', asks the impresario Boris Lermontov in Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes. 'Why do you want to live?' replies the young ballerina Victoria Page. Swap ballet for snowboarding, and you’ll have a sense of the compulsion driving Kevin Pearce in Lucy Walker's compelling new documentary. On New Year’s Eve in 2009, whilst preparing for the Vancouver Winter Olympics, champion American snowboarder Pearce suffered a horrific training accident, resulting in a traumatic brain injury. Helicoptered from the mountains to hospital in Salt Lake City, the 22-year-old remained in intensive care for nearly a month. Doctors warned him during the rehabilitation process that if he fell on his head again on the slopes, he risked death. To the dismay of his loving and deeply supportive parents and siblings, he announces his plans to return to competitive action.

Labelling The Crash Reel as simply a ‘snowboarding movie’ is akin to describing Raging Bull as merely a film ‘about’ boxing. In chronicling the charismatic Pearce’s life before and after his accident, Walker opens up an array of issues. What propels Pearce and his extreme sports colleagues to take such physical risks in pursuit of excellence, and what draws us as spectators to such potentially fatal spectacles? To what extent do the demands of big business jeopardize the safety of these daredevil athletes? And how does somebody in his or her physical prime deal with the shattering of their dreams and accept psychologically a life-long disability, which impacts upon their whole sense of self-identity? Assembled from a plethora of visual sources, including the title footage, this impressively edited and dynamically scored film successfully combines visceral bursts of action with intimately observed sequences, culminating in a poignant Thanksgiving dinner intervention undertaken by Pearce’s relatives.

Limited release from Fri 4 Oct.

The Crash Reel: Publicity Clip 2

The Crash Reel

  • 4 stars
  • 2013
  • US
  • 1h 48min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Lucy Walker
  • UK release: 4 October 2013

In 2009, snowboarder Kevin Pearce sustained a near-fatal brain injury while training, and despite warnings from doctors he was determined to return to competition. Walker's impressive documentary addresses tough issues to do with the safety of athletes and the difficulty of coming to terms with trauma, combining visceral…