Friday, August 1

Long Way Down--Review

Disclaimer: I am a sucker for motorcycle flicks. I’m prone to love them more often than not.

Last night I saw Long Way Down. I was going to miss this as I wasn’t feeling my old self. Then I figured, I can feel not well while being entertained by McGregor and Boorman’s antics! It was just what the doctor ordered! I loved every second of the movie. My analytical abilities could not be invoked as I was sucked into it quickly. The friendship between Ewan and Charley is part of the appeal for me.

The duo rides from Scotland to Cape Town, South Africa on behemoth BMW R1200GS, bikes that make my ST look scooterish! My bike weights a bit over 400lbs; the maximum permissible weight of the GS is nearly 1000lbs and theirs were loaded with gear and easily topped over 800lbs. All drops—and there were many—required two men to upright.

What I truly loved and appreciated was the scenery and the diversity of the terrain and its culture and people—not to mention the rich differences in language. Botswana, Libya, Egypt, Sudan—very different places. The visuals are stunning. The various grades of sand, I found striking. I just think of sand as, well…sand. The roads, as diverse as the people, made the journey endlessly exciting.

There are many moments when Charley and Ewan’s hold diary chats. They wax poetic about their day but I would have liked even more. Inherent in their exchanges are really interesting nuggets of wisdom. Like when Ewan talks about why one goes on an adventure. You go to see what will happen and how you’ll deal with it. An excursion can be overwhelming—even scary—but you go anyway and you remain fully open to the experience and if you’re lucky you might learn a little about what you’re made of.

Another memorable moment for me was McGregor’s speculation on the kindness of strangers. He says that people sense that you’re out there on your own, that you are more vulnerable out there in the elements, you’ve come from far away. Most people want to reach out to you, to offer friendship, food and shelter. This motorcycle documentary poignantly brought home the kindness of strangers. I hope it helps demystify Africa to those who know nothing about the country beyond the headlines of war, torture and famine.

Near the end of the film, Ewan talks about the importance of being particularly careful near the end of a journey. Think about it: you’re almost home, you’ve just covered—in their case—15,000 miles and you’re feeling comfortable knowing that you made it. The problem is, this is a false sense of security. Ewan calls this the “most dangerous time” of a journey because of the propensity to let your guard down. Lurking nearby is an accident waiting to happen. In reality, the journey doesn’t end until you pull into the garage, shut the engine off and safely dismount. Be mindful of this always.

Long Way Down had many thoughtful moments, many of which were sad. Despite facing considerable trauma, children are children and they posses a resiliency that is amazing and optimistically hopeful. Meeting orphans, street children and children in impoverished families obviously touched the pair, as it did me and served as a reminder that while most of us live in relative safety and comfort and retire each evening with a full belly, people--particularly children--suffer every second somewhere on this earth. Something as simple as pencils and writing tablets are luxury items that bring joy to children who don’t have these resources.

(Skip political rant paragraph here, if you want). There is a point in the film where one of the riders mentions that Bill Clinton said that not acting on Rwanda was one of his major regrets. I won’t get too political here. After all, I voted for him his first go-round. His failure to act on Rwanda is inexcusable! He was told, he had every opportunity to do something. Guess he was too busy staining a blue dress! Sorry for that little digression).

Back to the film. I love Charley and Ewan’s whining! In some regions their struggles with sand that appears as if it could easily swallow the bikes with them on it are funny and frustrating—you feel for them. But there is a scene when they are on a particularly arduous road, replete with rocks, sand, and just plain old, bad. Along comes a skinny guy on a fully loaded bicycle who had been riding a gazillion miles on those same roads. It’s a funny and humbling experience for the tough motorcyclists. It is a great scene for the viewers too.

I enjoyed Ewan’s wife joining the group for a bit of the ride. They implied that she was “off” learning to ride so that she could join them. To me, she looked really newbie. Lots of falls—proof about good gear and how well it can protect you. I must say, I was ready when she departed for the film seemed to slow down when she joined the team. Yet, I think this was an important segment to add a different take on the journey. If nothing else, she was great with the townspeople and must clearly now have a deeper, more meaningful understanding of Ewan and Charley’s passion.

The ride into Cape Town is beautiful and I must admit to getting a little misty eyed. The duo are surrounded by other motorcyclists and I think they are all Beemers. It's quite a striking scene.

Did I like it as much as the first one? I don’t really know. But that’s not what’s important. I loved this enough to order my personal copy the second it becomes available here. Then, I’ll have “Long Way Round,” “The World’s Fastest Indian, and “Long Way Down” to get me through the winter.

I hope their next adventure brings them to the Americas.


D. Brent Miller said...

I caught the movie with my group of fellow riders and our wives. It was a great movie and well received by all. I'm really looking forward to the full series--a series of one-hour programs on Fox Reality TV starting this Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, and running for 10 weeks. The full programs should have all the details that were left on the cutting room floor of the "director's cut."


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sharon:

It is always refreshing to read something that you've written. You put such verve and panache into your words. Your literary philosophy -- as it touches me -- seems to say, "Anything worth writing about should be the truth... It should mean something... And it should elevate and motivate the reader."

As you are aware, these three ambitions defeat me from the instant I touch the keyboard.

You and I both wrote reviews of the movie "The Long Way Down." You touched on the very human elements of this flick, its social implications, and potential political messages -- while relating the all to a motorcycle cultural context.

You were kind enough not to point out that I missed all this in my own summary of the movie. I think it would be fun to take a three-day ride with you, encompassing scenery, history, and a cultural event -- just so we could compare ride reports. Readers would think we were on two different trips.

I liked how you gave the gentle reader the option of skipping the political rant. I never give my readers that option. They have to go where I take them.

Would you mind if I steered some of my BMW riding buddies to your review? I'd like them to read your perspective.

Well, its 7:30am. There's the making of a thunderstorm outside, and I'm riding to meet some guys at a diner about an hour away.

My knees are killing me to stand on them today. This should be good.

Fondest regards,

Sojourner's Moto Tales said...

Well, I just learned that I don't have Fox Reality!! Bummer. Oh well, I'm placing my order for the DVDs. The first journey dvd had two versions, a European and one for the US market. The US market dvd was shorter than the European, which is the one I have. I'm looking forward to the entire production. Didn't you love that scene of being joined by all the motorcycles near the end?!

Sojourner's Moto Tales said...

Jack you are such a confidence booster! Thank you for your kind words. I'll keep trying to step up to that plate. I loved your review and wished I could have written something half as fun and well-crafted! Seriously!

Of course you can direct your buddies here. I hope they can find some kernel of useful info.

I definitely think you're right about a joint trip-- I agree we'd cook up some different things to write about--that's the beauty of diversity--we have different lenses through which we see the world--boy wouldn't that be fun, though?!.