The world-famous Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT) is one of those races where people turn up to compete, and optimistically hope that they won’t die in the process. Between 1907 and 2009, there have been 237 deaths during official practices or races on the Snaefell Mountain Course. While this staggering death toll puts the future of the race in jeopardy, it holds a mystique to it that draws in a crowd of both spectators and competitors every year. The race is known for its narrow, winding roads and dangerous turns and was once one of the most prestigious trophies in the world.
Narrated by actor and musician Jared Leto (Mr. Nobody), TT3D: Closer to the Edge traces the lead up to the 2010 races, and in particular four racers determined to become “King of the Mountain”. Guy Martin is a unique Northerner with a philosophical attitude on life who seems just at ease in grease-covered overalls as he does with a nice cup of tea. Ian Hutchinson is painted at the opposite end of the scale, a relative newcomer who has been making a name for himself. John McGuiness is the legitimate legend of the race, having won the trophy 15 times in the past, and showing no signs of letting go. There’s also the legendary ‘home town’ boy of Conor Cummins, another frequent champion.
Outside of the horror genere, there are few films where literally anybody could die by the time the credits roll. This is even more unexpected in a documentary, let alone one that uses magnificent 3D to draw the viewer into its unique world. While this year’s highly praised Senna used archival footage to explain the life behind a incredibly famous death, part of TT3D‘s success is that all of the elements are unknown. Keeping the viewer in the action throughout the film, the 3D cinematography finds a home and use, giving a terrifyingly immersive high-speed first-person perspective on one of the most dangerous races in the world. When participants fall or crash, the film does not linger on their fate, just as the other racers are unable to pause and check the damage.
Yet the most compelling aspect of TT3D: Closer to the Edge is not the ridiculously fast races, but the characters that populate debut director Richard De Aragues’ intriguing documentary narrative. In particular, the motormouthed Guy Martin – who has since gone on to host a documentary series in which he renovates a riverboat using inventions of the industrial revolution – provides a down-to-earth face and voice to a world that is far removed from the average viewer. The strength of the film is that it allows to grow close to each of the major players, reminding us frequently that death is around every corner. When the tragedies finally come, and they do, this approach hits home in a powerful documentary that goes part of the way to explaining why people return every year to compete in a race that they know could very well kill them.
TT3D: Closer to the Edge is released in Australia on 20 October 2011 from Icon.