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TT3D – Closer to the Edge; a review

Virtually everyone in the country will have heard of the Isle of Man TT races, and ‘TT-3d – Closer to the Edge’ is another motorsports documentary that attempts to answer ‘why they do it, in this case’ at what everyone knows is a very dangerous venue for racing motorcycles.

The director drops us a clue early on as to the nature of the TT. An announcement over the tannoy is overhead, informing spectators that it’s a ‘Time Trial’.

That’s important. It’s not a race in the classic ‘first past the post’ sense, but it’s about the quickest race time. And that defines the TT more than anything else; throughout the movie, talk about fastest laps, fast sections and fast bends and where you loose and make up time abound.

The film mainly follows Guy Martin as he prepares for and races in the 2010 TT races and attempts to win his first ever TT after a series of podium finishes.

Now, as a follower of road racing (as opposed to closed circuit racing) I already knew a fair bit about Guy Martin, having watched him race live at places like Scarborough and on TV at events like the TT and the North West 200.

He’s the classic anti-hero, intolerant of rules and (what he sees as) petty authority; he got a ban from mainland racing some years back for slamming the lid of a laptop on an official’s fingers after a post-race dispute.

The film confirms that he’s abrasive at times and a loner. A maverick, he’s difficult to work with, going missing from his team at vital moments. With the bike prepared and ready to ride, he suddenly decides he wants his old swingarm fitted, and sets off to personally track it down from the person on the island that he sold it to. He’s forgetful and dismissive of small details like racing licenses and pit passes, and throws a spat on the podium after an incident in the previous race.

He’s also charismatic as you’ll know if you watched “The Boat that Guy Built” on TV earlier this year, with an engaging enthusiasm for the things he enjoys in life. He expounds his homespun philosophy throughout the movie in a ‘stream of consciousness’ style of delivery over the ever-present mug of tea. Ask Guy his opinion on anything and you’ll surely get it, warts and all. He’s a stark and totally refreshing contrast to the current crop of media-savvy, sponsor-congratulating and ne’er a word out of place MotoGP stars.

The characters of fellow racers John McGuinness (fifteen times a TT winner) and Ian Hutchinson (who achieved the unique distinction of five wins on the island in 2010) add a counterpoint to Guy Martin, but there’s an undercurrent of camaraderie between everyone involved. Whilst they clearly regard him with some amusement, it’s tolerant.

What TT3D isn’t is a film extolling “‘balls to the wall’ bravery (or stupidity)” as the formulaic Time Out “world’s most dangerous motorsport event” review dubbed it. Nor is it a Vin Diesel action movie. And if you’re looking for 100 minutes of big screen, edge-of-the-seat race action in the style of the ‘Duke’ TT videos, you’ll have wasted your money too.

Technically, I’m not convinced about the benefits of 3D over 2D but whilst I felt it added very little, it didn’t detract from viewing. The action photography is excellent but as I’ve spectated the TT from an armchair for years as well as from the side of the circuit itself, neither is it anything new. Just sharp and bigger on the cinema screen.

The TT is dangerous, but it’s also funny, exhilarating, sad and heart-stopping and although it focuses on the competitors, the film is also about the partners and families of the riders, and about the other people who make the race happen – the sponsors and engine tuners, the officials, marshalls and paramedics. More than anything it lets those individuals tell their own stories, and gets under the skins of the people who live, eat and breathe the Isle of Man TT.

Little cameos abound. There’s the pit marshall who steadfastly refuses Guy entry without a pass, but is quite happy for him to borrow a pass, enter the paddock then hand it back to the owner through the chain link fence; there’s the elderly American visitor who’s always dreamed of visiting the TT and put it on his bucket list; there’s former TT winner Milky Quayle whose own career was ended by a high-sped crash who punctuates his in-car commentary on the course with snippets of motorbike sound effects.

There are some poignant moments too, from a paramedic’s description of grabbing his bag whilst watching a crash unfolding in front of him, to the engine tuner who said he felt like a drug dealer in preparing the engines that could carry the rider to their death. There are other, intensely moving, personal and distressing stories which unfold with the movie.

What we have gained by the end of TT3D, is a real insight into what happens for the people on the other side of the pitwall, not just the riders but also everyone else involved in making the TT what it is for us as spectators.

Back to Guy Martin. He’s highly professional in his own way. After a disappointing result – at least, disappointing by the standards he sets himself – he takes himself off to park up alone for the night near the sea, yet is found to be intently studying and analysing on-bike footage filmed from his competitors’ bikes to see just where he’s losing time.

To me, that sums up the lure of the TT and it’s the secret this film unlocks. It’s the thirty seven and three-quarter miles of road that is the competition, not the other riders. It’s the personal challenge to do just that little bit better round it than last time that drives these riders, and drove the riders like the Dunlops who went before them, to compete year after year.

And that’s why you don’t need to be a racer, or even ‘into bikes’ to appreciate this movie. If you’re one of those people who is even slightly obsessive about wanting to “do what you do just that little bit better” (usually to the puzzlement of others), then you’ll get just why they do it, too.

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