Last night I got the chance to check out the new film from Clay Porter and John Lawlo called 3 Minute Gaps. It was a two-year project that documents the lives of a handful of some of the fastest World Cup MTB riders as they battle it out on the circuit. The riders included Gee Atherton, Sam Hill, Aaron Gwin, Sam Blenkinsop, Brendan Fairclough, Greg Minnaar, Andrew Neethling, Danny Hart, Matti Lehikoinen, Ben Reid, and Josh Bryceland. This movie has been said to be the most anticipated bike film of the year and filmmakers Porter and Lawlo have quite a reputation to boot.
The film was structured so that the main storyline was that of the World Cup itself. Early on in the film, the story focused in on the tension between Gee Atherton and Greg Minnaar as they battled for the overall title. The film’s race coverage was broken up by more personal interview and montage segments that focused in on each rider’s story, struggles, etc. within the framework of their racing careers. During Aaron Gwin’s segment, for example, there would be a riding montage along with his interview and additional interview footage of other figures in the film talking about him. The order of these parts seemed somewhat random, yet after only watching the film once, I may have missed out on reasons for their placement. The main criticism I have of these segments is that the interviews were filmed in a way that for me, made them nearly unwatchable. The filmmakers used intense and constant rack zooms that I assume were to create a feeling of suspense. I found them very distracting and the amount to which this technique was used ruined the interview segments for me. Early on in the film, I counted 3 rack zooms in one 5 second interview clip. The shot moved quickly from a wide shot right into a rider’s face, then racked back a bit, then again racked all the way into a close-up.
Another criticism I have is the use of multiple shots of one particular turn or jump in the film. This was done during each rider’s personal segment. For example, Aaron Gwin’s last air in his segment appeared to be filmed from a few different angles and the filmmakers decided to show that one air using adjacent clips. This came across as a gaucherie, rather like the tendency in B action movies to show multiple angles of the same explosion.
Luckily, the cinematography of the riding was amazing. Porter and Lawlo definitely know what they are doing when it comes to making riding look sick. And, of course, it helped that they had some of the best riders in the world to film. Many of the shots used during the rider’s personal segments were filmed with a cable cam and a crane or dolly was often used on both racing shots and freeriding shots. These types of shots always look great, plain and simple. There was one dirt jump segment in particular that I thought was filmed very well and was a great change of pace in a primarily race movie. Despite the minor breaks in continuity and some questionable stylistic choices, the film ended strong by showcasing the intensity, both mental and physical, of Greg Minnaar and Gee Atherton’s battle to the top.
Overall, I give this a 3 out of 5.