For many, winter is all about extreme sports. But some of those mind-blowing highs also bring pretty serious lows. The Crash Reel tells the tale of an elite athlete attempting to come back from an injury that might be a little too much to overcome as the stakes in his sport become higher than he ever imagined.
At first, this is the tale of the epic rivalry between snowboarding legends Kevin Pearce and Shaun White; chronicling their entries into the world of extreme snowboarding. With both practicing more and more breathtaking and dangerous tricks leading up to the Vancouver Winter Olympics, everything suddenly changes for Kevin when a horrific crash leaves him fighting for his life. After he recovers, all he wants to do is get on his snowboard again, even though his doctors and loved ones fear it could kill him.
Director Lucy Walker paints a harrowing tale as The Crash Reel takes a look at the real life effects of brain injuries and at how some of these competitors will push themselves to achieve the success they desire. Walker takes her subjects and the sport of snowboarding along with other high risk sports, boiling it down to the risk versus reward aspects that these athletes deal with on a day to day basis.
Rather than paint the issue in the broad strokes of “concussions are bad”, she takes her subjects like Kevin Pearce and breaks down their overwhelming desire to compete in the face of a lot of scary facts. She looks at the likes of Shaun White, who could have easily been facing the same struggles that Pearce did during his arduous rehab, and also the impact of skier Sarah Park and her tragic death due to injuries that she sustained on the same half pike where Pearce suffered his brain trauma. The competition is an addiction for these people, and Walker clearly shows us how it can tear their lives apart.
The film is wisely never about making a right or wrong choice but how the risk of brain trauma is becoming more and more prevalent and people simply need to be aware. The Crash Reel ultimately shows us the genuine human cost of pushing these competitions to the limit as the thrill of victory can never outweigh the agony of defeat when something goes terribly wrong.
Rating: **** (out of 5 stars)