Review: Le Ride
For me personally, reality television is not something that I’m a fan of; I don’t like the staged humour, staged love, and staged drama, as I could get all that from an actual written episode of fictional television, such as Fargo or The Fall. However, Phil Keoghan’s The Amazing Race, alongside some other American reality shows, stand out among others, for either its ridiculousness, or its actual credibility, such as Keoghan’s show. Thus, stepping into the directing seat for another documentary, Keoghan brings us Le Ride, pretty much a sequel to “The Ride”, with some French mixed in. Le Ride is truly an interesting, one of a kind documentary in its own right. Keoghan decides to recreate the 1928 Tour de France in honour of the Australasian team which consisted of three Australians, Hubert Opperman, Percy Osborn and Ernest Bainbridge, and one New Zealander, Harry Watson.
The race itself is known as one of the hardest and most brutal tours of all time, with only 41 racers finishing out of around 160. Le Ride documents Phil Keoghan, his friend Ben Cornell, and a crew as they recreate the race on bikes from the same time and place as the 1928 race, as it intercuts actual radio reports from 1928 of the Australisians teams journey to France, racing, and finally completion of the dreaded race. Keoghan, an avid cyclist and New Zealand born himself, honours the four racers for the better part of the film, consistently cutting between intense and hilarious moments with his own experiences riding the 1928 route, with discussions about the four racers, quotes from them, and drilling into the audience the hardship which each rider had to go through as they competed. The film itself mirrors the two races quite well. Whilst Keoghan’s recreation isn’t easy, for the most part it’s injury free, peaceful, and funny, whilst the images from the 1928 include bloody crashes, boils and sores from riding too much, and in some cases death. Keoghan emphasizes the difference in the two races, with him commenting on how hard it would of been for the Australasian team then, if Keoghan and Ben are struggling years later without even having a clock to beat.
However, stepping aside from the history and excitement of the recreation of a race, it’s Keoghan’s background in reality television which leaves an interesting mark on this doco. A multitude of the shots within the documentary can be mistaken for actual dramatic movie shots. I’m not talking about long sweeping shots of drones angled down on mountains in the France. I’m talking about extreme close ups on Keoghan as he stares dramatically into the distance, as if waiting for an army to approach. The shots can also be lined up very well with of cause the shots done in The Amazing Race, and other reality shows. These shots add tension, drama and shock value to the program, as viewers can become more immersed with the show and the story it tells. I’m not sure the same effect is achieved using it in a documentary like this, as the documentary story is already fairly laid out with what’s going to happen, so the use of drama is almost irrelevant. Nevertheless, it adds a certain quality which separates it from other documentaries of its kind.
Le Ride celebrates foreign relations through sport, the might of Australians in the face of hardship and the Tour de France itself all in 90 minutes, and in addition manages to include humour, drama and even some ties to reality television. You might not be a fan of the other shows that he’s involved in, however, Keoghan manages to capture something special with this documentary, which keeps viewers captivated and gives them a good laugh as well.
Written by Hamish Vallance
Click here for Hamish and Christian’s interview with Phil Keoghan