Okay so there’s no dirt but there are plenty of bikes and Hitting the Apex is without doubt one of the best movies you’ll see this summer…
‘Hitting the Apex’ is a film by Mark Neale, director of previous motorcycle motion pictures ‘Faster’ (2003) and ‘Fastest’ (2011). Apex marks Neale’s return to the MotoGP circus as he takes upon the ambitious task of telling the incredible stories of six of the world’s fastest racers. The film focuses on MotoGP juggernauts Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner, Marc Marquez and Marco Simocnelli as they put life and limb on the line in order to claim eternal glory, on and off the track.
Appropriately the backdrop of the ‘Hitting the Apex’ world premiere matched that of the film as press, as well as a few lucky fans, were invited to the famous Silverstone circuit on MotoGP weekend to be amongst the very first people on the planet to take in the thrills and spills of Mark Neale’s latest piece.
The film opens to the thick, gravelly tones of Brad Pitt’s voiceover as we are introduced to the sport of MotoGP. We are shown and told just what it takes in order to succeed in this ever perilous game. The inclusion of Brad Pitt as Narrator (and producer) adds an instant sense of gravitas and glamour that only MotoGP can attract and boast.
As previously mentioned it is an extremely ambitious task telling the stories of these six, very different characters. These stories span multiple decades, countless races and several continents. Although the main focus of the film are the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons and how these six fighters battled for supremacy throughout. This ambition to properly portray these stories in the correct way (which is extremely important in one instance- but we’ll get to that later) means that the film has one hefty running time. At 2 hours and 18 minutes ‘Hitting the Apex’ is likely to be the longest motorcycle movie that you’ll have ever watched end to end. I say ‘watched end to end’ because there is absolutely no way any fan of two wheeled racing will be able to switch off this film.
Even if you’re not the biggest fan of MotoGP, even if you don’t know these riders and you don’t know the ins and outs of the sport, ‘Hitting the Apex’ is crafted in way that grabs your attention and never lets it go. As I said if you are a fan of two wheeled racing, no matter what its form, you’re most definitely going to appreciate the talent (and the balls) of these athletes and you’re definitely going to find new respect for what these guys put themselves through.
However it has to be said that the sheer scale of the film; the six riders, the multiple seasons- each with different story lines and each with different champions and the way the film moves forward- much like it’s subjects- at 200mph+ all add together to be a little confusing and little hard to follow for a viewer that is not 100% plugged into the MotoGP scene. Nevertheless fans of two wheeled racing and racing in general can truly appreciate the drama and the spectacle that MotoGP and ‘Hitting the Apex’ has the offer.
At the heart of this ambitious film are the riders themselves. Six of the greatest to have ever thrown a leg over a motorcycle…and six vastly different characters away from the track. As a viewer that only knows these athletes as riders, as a helmet and a set of leathers and for the men that lie beneath those leathers and under those helmets to be mysterious enigmas it was incredibly interesting to get to know these very different personalities. For me there were three very distinct protagonists; Valentino Rossi, Marco Simoncelli and Marc Marquez. With their smiley, jokey, laid back attitudes these riders provided most of the laughs in the film. Whereas Stoner, Pedrosa and Lorenzo were painted in a way that showed how they meant business and how serious everything was for them. It could be said that these three were the films antagonists but that’s not necessarily a matter of fact. True, Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Stoner provided the drama and the tension in a lot of the story lines and Stoner even admitted that he loathed the MotoGP frenzy, yet ultimately all six of these riders are the heroes of the film for they truly put their lives on the line in order to go racing and for us to enjoy.
Inevitably for a film that stars the late, great Marco Simoncelli the subject of his untimely death in a racing incident had to be covered. This was done very deftly by Neale in a sensitive, respectful manner. A slow build up to the inevitable, of which we both anticipated and dreaded, portrayed Marco’s charisma and attitude both on and off the track in a way that simultaneously reminded us why we loved him and suggested that those reasons may well have been what resulted in his untimely demise. Marco’s segment concludes with a truly heart wrenching silence that really invoked emotions that no motorcycle film I had ever watched before had done.
As well as this emotional peak the film features many laughs and plenty of moments of comic relief- the majority coming from Rossi’s own interviews and storylines. A particular pair of old timers from Rossi’s home town are a delightful addition to the film, they too providing a lot of the laughs.
‘Hitting the Apex’ has clearly been a labour of love for Mark Neale. Years in the making and countless hours in the editing suite have paid off as, in its pursuit of telling the incredible stories of these six gladiators, Apex impressively showcases the extreme highs and devastating lows of motorcycle racing and really portrays these hero’s as the true bad-asses that they are. If you love MotoGP, then Christmas has come early for you! And for those that don’t follow the sport? Well, MotoGP may just have a few new admirers after a viewing of ‘Hitting the Apex’….
Hitting the Apex is in cinemas on September 2 and will be available on Blu-Ray DVD and digital on September 7.