Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Dust to Glory

"I was in third place overall. I lost 45 minutes riding on a flat." This was said over and over again by "Mouse" McCoy, undeniably the main character and hero of this documentary. Dust to Glory is about the Baja 1000, an annual 1000 mile race just over the Mexican border. This race has hundreds of competitors, is intense, and is fascinating to watch. I had been interested in this movie ever since I saw Dana Brown's previous documentary, Step into Liquid. It may be simply that I found this subject more interesting, but I feel that he has improved this time out.

The movie bounces back and forth between a vast array of characters, the main focus being on the motorcycle racers (though it does feature buggies, trucks, and other vehicles as well). This gets a little confusing. Even now I'm not positive which people were involved in which scenes. There was no mistaking our hero, though. Most teams switch off riders every few hundred miles, but McCoy went against all odds, and raced all 1000 miles alone. This led to some very intense scenes of him barely managing to keep his bike upright- though as he would tell anyone who would listen, he was in third for most of the race.

This movie has two strong points. It is visually magnificent, and it has great characters. Aside from the racers, it features a colorful group of enthusiasts. There's Coco, the one legged Mexican rancher, who's homestead is always a checkpoint. Or there's the Weatherman, who volunteers to spend the night perched atop Mount Diablo to serve as the race's base of communications, radioing between support crews, emergency workers, and whoever else needs him.

The fantastic part about this movie is the photography. Gigantic trucks roaring through the Baja wilderness, and motorcycles racing at nearly 100 miles an hour at night, with only a small circle of light to show the way. These shots are amazing. Portions of this course are on open roads, so the vehicles are darting through public traffic. Spectators also crowd around, flanking the course, within feet of the vehicles themselves (some darting across the rout at the last minute). Some of the point of view footage is genuinely intense.

A few of the highlights include a scene were a slew of race trucks are pulled over by Mexican police officers. They all willingly oblige. Another scene features grand martial Mario Andretti taking one of the trucks out for a spin, actually terrifying the owner who was sitting in the passenger seat. The joyride ends when they run out of gas miles from the camp and have to hitchhike back.

Even though this was a very entertaining documentary, it still wasn't quite outstanding. The construction of jumping around between characters got to be confusing, as they kept adding more and more. Also, it seemed to try to over-reach simply trying to document the event (which would have been strong in its own right), and provide from life-affirming inspirational tale. Granted, one of the producers was in fact "Mouse" McCoy's brother- so that agenda is prevalent. Dana Brown's narration just seemed hokey. The cliched metaphors, and inspiration speeches got to be repetitive, and they just weren't all that good. This is not a superb documentary, but it was interesting, and worth the time to watch

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