Hitting the Apex
“Brilliant Excellence of Life”©
In memory of Marco Simoncelli SIC
I personally have never spent time reading movie or documentary reviews. Sorry, I have never written one either. I would not pretend to be able to write such work on a professional level. Yet here I am literally compelled on July 4, 2023, to write about a deeply inspiring documentary. I stumbled upon Hitting the Apex and I must share.
From the moment I hit play, this work of art grabbed my attention. I was on the edge of my seat for so many reasons. The photography is unparalleled. Calculated, planned composition of images and shots from angles to perspectives to colors and edits. The music evokes a sense of connection throughout the entire 138 minutes, making it easy to fully appreciate what is seen (in combination with the words we hear) from the narrator and all characters. The tone of voice from the narrator, who is none other than Brad Pitt, is intentionally hypnotic and introspective. That helps the viewers connect to the biker’s mind.
This documentary can help those unfamiliar with riding come to understand, or at the very least appreciate, the eternal question of “why we ride”. It became obvious to me that every single word, written by director/producer Mark Neal, was chosen with precision to intentionally engage your mind on every level and at every moment. In this documentary you learn about riding and racing yes, but also about parenting, about dreams and what it takes to achieve them, risks versus rewards, discipline, life and death, etc. Most importantly, you learn about the brilliant, deeply moving excellence of this life. I would give this masterful documentary five stars for all the reasons above. My only critique is that I enjoyed it so much I found the 138 minutes too short.
The film begins with a very young 9-year-old racer (Stefano Franz) racing a mini bike, with Pitt describing Franz’s dad as Stefano’s “crew chief” … “This is how it begins…” The viewer is instantaneously hooked by nostalgia of child vs father and mother relationship, all intertwined with the sport. Then the scene switches to Valentino Rossi interacting with his crew as visual background and Pitt’s voice reeling you in for good. Each statement from the narrator is tied to a scene that pulls you into that very realm, helping you to make the connection.
One of the best introductory scenes to me was when you see the track from the bike’s perspective of facing curves, supported by Pitt soothingly describing— in detail—the state of mind of the biker–at–every–moment.
“A motorcycle racer and his crew chief… And his race engineers…and his suspension engineer…and his tire engineer…and his electronics engineer…and his mechanics…looking for speed. From the smallest mini-moto track to the fastest grand prix circuit, from little bikes that cost a few hundred to MotoGP missiles that cost millions. From 20-mile-an-hour childhood thrills to 220-mile-an-hour grand prix battles. The principle remains the same. Find the fastest line around the track. And then figure out how to go faster. Grand prix motorcycle racing is the process of turning fire into speed. The combustion of fuel and air in the engine and the fire in the heart of a rider willing to risk everything to win. Time is the enemy. The fractions of a second lost or gained in every corner which add up to defeat or victory. And the few years that you have to make it to the top and try to stay there. This is what you have to do. Brake as late as possible. Stay wide. Turn. Hit the apex. Accelerate. Brake. Lean… further. Faster. Stay on the motorcycle. Hit the apex. Accelerate. Stay on the motorcycle. Crashing… hurts. It wrecks your bike. It wrecks your body. It wrecks your chances. Stay… on… the bike. And fight. Every lap. Every corner. Every second. In 18 races around the world. Flat out for over 2,000 miles each season. Fight to the finish. Fight to the top.”
“Hitting the Apex” was written, directed, and produced by Mark Neal. Brad Pitt, who is also a motorcycle enthusiast, is listed as a producer as well. The documentary can be viewed on iTunes/Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, Playstation Video, Xbox/Microsoft Video, and Vudu.
Neal and Pitt’s work takes you into the lives of six true legendary bike racers: Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner, Marco Simocelli (RIP), and Dani Pedrosa. It is masterfully intertwined with, in part, two touching stories from which the viewers can learn life lessons. One lesson is of fierce competitive rivalries involving Lorenzo and Simoncelli who both display gladiator-like skills and superior diplomacy. The other lesson is of a deeply rooted friendship and mentorship between Rossi and Simoncelli.
So what did I do for the rest of my Independence Day, you might ask? Well, I looked at every piece of work/documentary from Mark Neal. I binged, living vicariously through it all the entire day. No regrets! Every single documentary has been worth my time. May I ask for an “Isle of Man TT” www.iomttraces.com or a “North West 200” www.northwest200.org documentary maybe, Mr. Neal? My only request would be that you choose Angelina Jolie as narrator.
As a last note, when do we get our own Isle of Man TT or North West 200 style race here on USA grounds?
Mark Neale is a British documentarian and film director based in Los Angeles, California. His best-known work is the 1999 documentary, No Maps for These Territories, which profiled cyberpunk author William Gibson. Prior to ‘No Maps’, Neale had been an acclaimed music video director, making videos for artists such as U2, Paul Weller, and Counting Crows. In 2003, Neale wrote and directed Faster, a documentary on the MotoGP motorcycle racing world championship, and its sequel The Doctor, the Tornado and the Kentucky Kid in 2006.
William Bradley “Brad” Pitt (born December 18, 1963) is an American actor and film producer. He is the recipient of various accolades, including two Academy Awards, two British Academy Film Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and a Primetime Emmy Award. As a public figure, Pitt has been cited as one of the most powerful and influential people in the American entertainment industry.
Sources & photos: Internet, hittingtheapexmovie.com, Wikipedia