Directed by: #NathanRussellRaby
Almost typifying the stereotypical racing #documentary, 3 Wheeling boasts an endearing blend of drama, excitement, and unapologetic testosterone. Following the plight of two contenders at the 2016 Isle of Man Sidecar TT, what follows is an hour and a half of pure adrenaline. Even those with zero interest in sport, will find it hard to be anything less than utterly invested.
Despite a niche subject matter, 3 Wheeling keeps the focus entirely in the right place; with the riders. What is crafted is a genuine story that explores the chaotic and sometimes fatal sport, inviting us to experience not only the highs, but the consequential lows.
The use of hidden cameras quite literally places the audience in the driver's seat, allowing us to see and feel the intensity from all angles. Seeing the sidecar passenger hang on with nothing more than a handheld grip, at insanely high-speed shows that this isn’t for the faint hearted. The decision to pit comparative underdogs Molyneux and Reeves as the film’s protagonists is a clever one in terms of building tension. That said, the finale is ultimately underwhelming and after a suspenseful build, the ending falls flat. Additionally, the lack of interviews with Molyneux and his apparent apathy towards anyone or anything that isn’t his bike, makes him a questionable avatar. Perhaps he would’ve served better as the villain of the piece.
Much like the bikes themselves, the film moves at breakneck speed. The latter half introduces us to the players during the weeks leading up to the big race, whilst the former thrusts us into it headfirst. The footage used is mostly well picked, immersing us into a world of engines, tinned beers, and plenty of f-bombs. That said, a few segments do serve to do little more than act as window dressing for the dialogue underneath. Regardless, the #cinematography and editing are equally frantic, making the races all the more invigorating.
Sharp cuts, combined with multiple camera angles, and a masterful use of slow motion make them as aesthetically pleasing as they are enthralling.
The roar of the engines is matched by a rocky soundtrack that gets the heart pumping. Electric guitars and drums match the fast pace of the on-screen action perfectly. Equally, the absence of sound is sometimes just as effective. Perhaps the film’s greatest scene comes at the start of the first race, where the muffled sound of engines forebodes an eerie atmosphere that reflects the words of Reeves; ‘the wait is like being in hell.’ The cue to muffle the sound just as he dons his helmet is just as ingenious.
Overall, the passion behind 3 Wheeling shines through, delivering an exciting and engaging documentary. Motor sport isn’t for everyone, so this could’ve easily been one exclusively for the petrol heads. Thankfully, director Nathan Russell-Raby clearly knows his art well, and successfully crafts a compelling film that works to deliver a full throttle experience. The disappointingly anticlimactic ending is the only point of contention, besides minor grievances such as a few too many interviewees to keep track of. However, these niggles don’t dink the bodywork of what is ultimately a nothing less than a thrill ride. 3 Wheeling earns a place on the winner’s podium, even if it’s protagonists aren’t so lucky.