When thinking about the cycle racing and the Tour de France, one name comes to the forefront: Lance Armstrong. For what seems like forever, Armstrong was regarded as one of the greatest miracles (after surviving cancer of the testicles, brain, and lungs) and a sports hero due to his seven Tour victories. As doping allegations began popping up and eventually proven, his legacy was tarnished. This scandal also threw the proud history of the Tour de France into a different light. The Racer harnesses the new, unfortunate view of the Tour de France and brings to life the struggles of those who spend their lives preparing for the prestigious event.
The year is 1998, and the Tour de France is upon the world. As nearly two hundred cyclists prepare for the biggest race of their lives, one participant, Dominique Chabol (Louis Talpe), finds himself cut from the team at age thirty-nine. With very little cycling left ahead of him (due to contractual obligations by both the team and him), Dominique is prepared to throw everything away and move on from the team that slighted him. As his cycling career is coming to an end, Dominique will do whatever he can to make his final races the most successful of his career. He now has the chance to prove to his team and his country.
“…Dominique will do whatever he can to make his final races the most successful of his career.”
Passion in a film often draws viewers to the edge of their seats and provides them a reason to focus on what is taking place. Sports films, however, often present passion in a way that only fans of athletics can understand. These films provide a sense of adrenaline to those who have participated in sports. It lures them in and supplies those viewers with a vicarious sense of accomplishment. Cycling is not a sport that would typically be associated with success in film as the sport doesn’t seem to offer viewers that same feeling as high-octane sports like hockey or American football. The Racer, however, captivates audiences through both the racing scenes and the story that appears to accurately reflect the issues that plague the sport.
There is an odd juxtaposition of love and hate that viewers feel toward the protagonists. Dominique and his fellow teammates, Lupe ‘Tartare’ Marino (Matteo Simoni) and ‘Sonny’ McElhone (Iain Glen), partake in some less than acceptable acts throughout the film, but still manage to win the hearts of the viewers. Their questionable choices create a realistic, flawed human, but even better represent many individuals who participate in the Tour de France. It needs to be understood that the majority of cyclists follow the rules, and those who have been caught breaking them are the ones that stand out to those who know anything at all about the sport. Writer-director Kieron J. Walsh, along with his co-writers, Ciaran Cassidy and Sean Cook, express the universal displeasure of athletes who attempt to stack the deck in their favor. But they’re also able to captivate audiences with the genuine competitiveness and excitement of one of the more difficult athletic events globally.
The story progresses nicely and sees slight changes in the characters as the Tour de France takes flight. Cassidy, Cook, and Walsh excellently develop relationships within the film, so viewers feel a strong connection to the characters and can genuinely appreciate the story. Meaning audiences have a difficult decision to make in terms of accepting these people for who they are or hoping for growth in the ones they connect with. The Racer will attract fans of cycling and those who enjoy a good drama, as it’s a fresh take on the sports drama formula.
"…...fresh take on the sports drama formula."