Movie Review: Le Ride
Le Ride (E, 90 mins) Directed by Philip Keoghan ★★★★
New Zealand-born US reality-show host Phil Keoghan gets it almost spot on with this amazing race of his own.
Eager to learn more about the incredible feats of four Australasian cyclists (including fellow Cantabrian Harry Watson), Keoghan and best bud Ben Cornell decide to ride the infamous 1928 Tour de France course for themselves.
With punishing timetables, treacherous roads and dangerous descents, organisers in those days designed routes aimed at testing riders to their limits. The 1928 edition was very much a race of attrition, with 75 per cent of entries not making the finish line, even with 10 man teams and replacement riders available.
Of course much has changed now, but not always for the better. Little villages have become bustling towns and country roads have transformed into dangerous highways. Keoghan and Cornell don't decide to take the easy option either – sure their passage to France is a 12-hour flight instead of a five-week boatride, but both manage to source authentic 1928 bikes. Weighing twice the weight of modern velos, their less-than ideal braking "systems" and tank-like handling make just riding them a challenge in itself.
And naturally their 3338 mile circumnavigation of Europe's "hexagon" doesn't get off to an auspicious start. Lost within a mile of leaving the Paris startline, Keoghan's bike suffers from near fatal "metal fatigue" just hours in.
As those calamities might suggest, this entertaining documentary is likely to appeal not only to cycling enthuasists, but also those missing the former Top Gear trio's misadventures (or fans of Ewen McGregor's Long Way... motorbike series). The warts and all-approach to filming is endearing, while Keoghan makes for a genial guide, even if his staccato voice-over style won't be everyone's cup of tea.
His use of archival footage and diary entries provides plenty of evocative moments and genuine awe as we learn about just what obstacles and privations riders were up against almost 80 years ago. In fact two images, perhaps best sum things up – before and after photos of the antipodean riders – they look like completely different people.
If there is an omission or disappointment, it's that there's perhaps not enough focus on the historic riders themselves. We barely learn anything about Watson or the Aussie trio until the ubiquitous pre-end credit blurbs. Judging from those, it could be that there simply isn't much information about them, but it just seems like a slight opportunity wasted to fully brief audiences on these unsung heroes.
But such niggles inside, Keoghan's slick documentary feature debut, from its opening Peter Jackson-esque soaring sounds and sweeping vistas, to the emotional payoff, is a real crowdpleaser that deserves to find an audience.
Le Ride opens in select cinemas from December 15.