Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Film Review - "Underdog" Chasing a Dream at UTMB





So this is a first for me, I've been asked to review a book and various kits before, but to review a film is not something I'm often asked to do. In fact I've never been asked to review a film before. When I was told it was a film called Underdog, which was about Damian Hall's attempt to break the top 10 at UTMB last year in 2018, I had no hesitation to say but to say yes. 

Watch the trailer here






Having met, and spoke to Damian in person before,  I found he's a genuine top bloke, and I've been following his adventures on Social Media for a while now. So I was pretty excited by this and looked forward to watching the film made by Summit Fever Media. Having seen plenty of their work in the past, I have high hopes based on the films I've seen at this point. I hope this would be as good as the previous films I've seen such as their Spine footage. 

So here is the synopsis taken from their website "Damian Hall takes on the most famous ultra marathon in the world - the 171 km +10,040 m ascent UTMB® - the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. His aim is break into the elite ranks of the top 10 male podium finishers. The athletes he is up against are professional, full-time runners. Younger and faster, many live and train in the mountains. "

If you don't know what UTMB is, then watch the film and I'm sure you will soon get the idea. It is like many of these worldwide known races in Ultra Running, it's a bucket list event for many to just finish. They have a series of races of various distances, all highly contested, with UTMB being the main one! Having some friends who have raced it and completed it as well, it always gets me excited for the live tracking during race week. It's just an exciting race series to follow!

Anyway the film, was it any good? Here's my honest review. 

The film starts off building you up for the big day. Damian out in all weathers, training for his dream, his goal to break the top 10 at UTMB. Something not many British Athletes have done. He like many other Brits don't have the training play grounds of huge mountain trails, he has to make do with what Britain has to offer. Up early hours, sacrificing family time, special occasions as many elites do, to be able to put in the best performance they possibly can. Running through bogs, gale force winds and rain at the top of some of our highest points, early in the morning when everyone else is still in bed. 

Already the film has you hooked in and as a runner, who although I'm nowhere near Damian's or even any other good runners standards I am fully aware of the sacrifice I have had to make for the events that I have run. You immediately feel part of his journey and the film has you from the start. Even though, most of us already know the outcome, I was still willing that nothing was to go wrong and he makes the start line. 

The film really shows off well, the journey to the start line and I was now excited for the race to start. 
Weather was not going to stop the training - pic by Summit Fever Media
Once we're in Chamonix, it's just beautiful cinematography. I wanted to be there, starting with him. It had drawn me in, and I just wanted to go put my trail shoes on and go find a mountain. 

Damian is joined by his support crew Nicky Spinks (legend), and we're soon watching Damian flying off. You're now taking on a breath taking race, with stunning scenery made even more stunning by the great filming. Not once did I find it all over the place, or it didn't work. I felt I was there, egging Damian on. Damian's narrative of the race as it goes along is so captivating. He has a way of speaking that goes so well with the footage. 

Soon enough I was on the edge of my seat egging Damian to do it, I kept saying in my head "you've got this". Seeing Nicky getting emotional at the end, also made me a little emotional. For a film to have that effect on me, showed me that it is a fantastic running documentary. I've watched many running films, I even attempt to make my own which are mainly for my own enjoyment, but this has to be up there with one of the finest I've watched. I genuinely believe it maybe up there with the Barclay Marathons official film. That film is often watched, and I'm sure once this is out there and known about, it will be well viewed over and over again for years to come. 


Stunning pic by Summit Fever Media
Overall, it is a really good running documentary and one I've already watched 3 times prior to writing this. Each time, I'm wanting to head out the door and get on the trails and for a film to do that, proves to me how well it is made. 

I think it epitomises the sacrifice, the effort, the drive required to not only finish this event, but to break into the Top 10. 

I personally didn't find anything I didn't like with the film, that could be because I'm not an avid film critic that goes searching, but I would be surprised, if those interested in trail running, or running itself don't enjoy it. At 21 minutes long you don't need to clear your diary either. 

Go and watch your self the adventure that Damian leads you on, as he attempts to break the Top 10 at UTMB, the film Underdog

Thank you Summit Fever Media for giving me the opportunity to watch and review the film. I'm now off to watch it again.


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