Film Review: LE RIDE (USA/France/ New Zealand 2016) ***1/2

LE RIDE.jpgIn 1928 an under-resourced and untested team from New Zealand and Australia competed in what is considered to be the toughest sporting event in the world.

Director: Phil Keoghan
Writers: Louise Keoghan, Phil Keoghan
Star: Philip Keoghan

Review by Gilbert Seah
With the increasing number of cyclists in Toronto and around the world today, this inspirational film about biking should be of immense interest.

LE RIDE is a film, as the voiceover is quick to emphasize, about people with a big heart and determination. As the saying goes, it is not the size of the dog in a fight but the fight in the dog that matters.

The history: In 1928 an under-resourced and untested team from New Zealand (one Harry Watson) and Australia (3 Australians) competed in what is considered to be the toughest sporting event in the world. Many considered the entry of these courageous underdogs, racing as a team of 4 against teams of 10, a joke. One French journalist called their attempt nothing short of murder. 168 riders started the more than 3,500-mile race, only 41 finished. Surprisingly this remarkable story about the achievements of these brave athletes has never been told on film, until now. The present: What has fascinated the filmmaker is the original 1928 Tour de France. Phil Keoghan – television personality, adventurer and cycling enthusiast, with his mate, Ben retraces the 1928 Tour de France route, bringing history to life. Following the original course and schedule, riding a vintage bike, Phil and his team will average 150 miles a day for 22 stages. This is their documentary.

A plus of the documentary are the breathtaking sights observed during the Tour de France. These include the mountains of the Pyrenees, the little villagers and small towns all the way from Paris to Cherbourg to Bordeaux down to the south and back to Paris. The aerial shots ands camera work enhance the scenery to entice the audience to visit France, if they have not already done so.
Phil and Ben, can come across as quite annoying tourists from the film, but their spirit and love for cycling is catching. They must be doing something right, as they manage to convince a lot of French bike enthusiast to help them in their quest.

The quest is no easy task. Phil is not shy to show the grilling and arduous work and pain that goes into completing the race. They ride from nightfall to nightfall with insufficient rest for their bodies to recover. As Ben and Phil race, the film is intercut with archive footage and commentary of the 4 Aussies and Kiwi who themselves suffered great difficulties in 1928. Watson, the New Zealander came down with influenza during the race and still struggled to pull through.

The film also answers the ultimate question of why people go to extreme dangers in sports. Phil jokingly says it is to show off his good looking bike legs. Seriously, he admits that only when one puts himself to the limit does one learn about oneself.

LE RIDE reveals the other side of the glamour of the Tour de France – the gruelling pain and challenging passion that people are unaware of. A film centring on the triumph of the human spirit over great difficulties is always an interesting watch. LE RIDE proves that and much more!


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