The Last Rider: Review.
The sports documentary is tried and true, while stories of overcoming adversity are aspirational. There’s a lot of drama already baked into sports since it’s inherently a competition with just one outcome. At times it almost feels like sports is “scripted” since it can feel like a movie. However, real life is just more dramatic and heartbreaking than any movie, especially when there’s real setbacks, tragedy, and triumphs
In the documentary The Last Rider, filmmaker Alex Holmes (Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story, Maiden) takes a look at cyclist and racer Greg Lemond, the only American to officially win Tour de France (Note: Lance Armstrong’s wins were stricken from the record after he admitted to using performance enhancing drugs throughout his career).
Set in throughout the ‘80s, The Last Rider starts with an introduction to Greg Lemond’s early life before competitive cycling. He fell in love with the sport at an early age and was considered a natural, as he quickly grew in the ranks as a teenager; when he also met and fell in love with his wife Kathy. He had opportunities to join teams in Europe, where cycling is one of the most popular sports on the continent—especially in France.
At the height of his success after winning the Tour de France in 1986, Lemond was accidentally shot by his brother-in-law on a turkey hunt during Thanksgiving weekend the following year. A majority of the film is spent with Lemond during his journey and recovery.
The film is where it really kicks into high gear in the last hour of its 96-minute running time. After two years in recovery and out of the limelight, Greg Lemond comes back to the Tour de France just to see if he can still compete. Holmes showcases day-by-day of the ‘89 Tour de France in a very gripping, well-told, and expertly edited sequence with archival footage and talking heads of the race leaders. This adds a bit of drama to the race and its stakes as a racer, while it explains the race itself for people who aren’t familiar with just how grueling it is to win.
Although The Last Rider is a pretty standard documentary—especially in a world with ESPN’s award-winning 30 For 30 documentary series—it offers a big screen story with an engaging story and relatable “heroes and villains” in the cycling world during the ‘80s. It’s an inspiring comeback story that serves as a good ride along for failure and success.
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