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Director: Finlay Pretsell
Presented by: Finlay Pretsell, Dan Deacon
2017, UK, 81 MIN, DCP
In this content-heavy age of ESPN, HBO and Netflix (to name but a few), there is certainly no shortage of great sports documentaries, but rarely do those films cross over from snazzy well-produced storytelling into pure cinema. Time Trial, while a riveting and powerful sports film in its own right, is also a pure work of art. From its opening interview with subject David Millar—a once‑disgraced cyclist who fought his way back into the good graces of his beloved sport after a two year suspension for using PEDs—Time Trial shows itself to be a wholly different kind of documentary experience, made all‑the‑more remarkable by a haunting original score by singular Baltimore-based composer Dan Deacon.
A complete and total audio-visual immersion, the film posits viewers directly into the grueling world of the peloton. As Millar’s team trains for the Tour de France, we ride along, up impossible hills, through pouring rain, under brutal sun, pushing through fatigue, injury and self doubt to keep the wheels rolling as fast as they can go. The film, with its indelible soundtrack, succeeds mightily at engrossing viewers in the peloton to the point that we can almost taste the blood, sweat and tears of these determined competitors. The physical ride isn’t the only one we’re on though. As Millar—an athlete who has risen to cycling’s heights only to fall to its depths and rise again—looks for a final qualifying victory to take him, one last time, to cycling’s main event.
Akin to 2013 doc sensation Leviathan in its visceral immersion into subject, Time Trial layers on a bold exploration of the inner workings of a complicated human. Millar is an athlete whose complexities demand the film’s unique approach. Director Finlay Pretsell doesn’t just offer a peek behind the curtain, but rather tears it down as David Millar lays himself bare. The seasoned cyclist allows us total access as he attempts to transcend his aging body—and the emotional heft that comes with the knowledge that he’s in the twilight of his career—to seek out one final victory lap in his beloved sport. (Scott Braid)
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