Thursday, April 25, 2013

Movie Review: Morning Light

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Draws you into the story with the likable crew
Cons: So much more could have been explored.
The Bottom Line:
Trans Pacific race
Film a bit light overall
Sailing fans will like

Race the TransPac in Morning Light

When you think of Walt Disney Pictures, you don't normally think documentary. True, they've done a few over the years like the True Life Adventures, but even those are almost forgotten these days. But along comes Roy Disney and Morning Light.

Walt's nephew and company executive, Roy Disney has won the TransPac, the ultimate race in sailing, multiple times. But this documentary isn't about him (although he does show up a few times). This is about a group of 15 eighteen to twenty-three year olds he sponsored for the 2007 race.

For those, like me, not familiar with the sport, the TransPac is an open ocean race. It covers 2000+ miles from Long Beach, California to Diamond Head, Hawaii, the longest stretch of ocean with no land.

The documentary follows these 15 young adults as they spend six months training for the race. Their training involves everything from physical fitness to emergency preparations and, you know, actual sailing.

Unfortunately, only 11 of the sailors can actually man their boat, called Morning Light, for the actual race. After four months together, the group must select the actual team.

Then comes the day of the actual race. In a race like this, any little mistake can win or lose the race. With that kind of pressure, can they win?

I have a love of all things nautical, so I went out of my way to catch this limited release film. And it was worth it. The first half, which consists of the training, is interesting. I hadn't given much thought to some of the things they had to learn. Watching them build as a team and grow as sailors was entertaining.

When the film switches to the actual race, things really pick up. I couldn't believe how into it I got. No, there was never any nail biting suspense, but it found I did care about the outcome.

More importantly, these young adults are likable. The few scenes of tension between them are never over played. I'm sure there were more moments that were white washed by the producers, but I'm okay with that. It's nice to occasionally be free from the constant drama of real relationships.

The documentary has a major flaw, however. It tries to do too much in 100 minutes. There are 15 sailors to learn, six months of training, and the actual race. Plus we are supposed to pick up something on how this changed their lives. Anyone else seeing this not working?

Frankly, the cast all blends together. The exceptions are Jesse Fielding, the Australian, Genny Tullock, one of the two women among the 15, and Steve Mason, the one African American in the crew. Frankly, that's really about all I expected to get to truly know in this short piece.

Frankly, I do think this had the potential to be a wonderful TV series. With multiple weeks, we could have seen how the team grew together and then watched them race. We might have even had time to see how the four members not selected to race felt about not being chosen and how they spent the race. True, we get a couple minutes on them, but that is all there was time to see. Of course, if this had become a weekly series, we probably would have gotten more of the fighting and obnoxious reality TV behavior I was so glad was missing.

As you might expect, the scenery is gorgeous. There are some absolutely beautiful shots of the boat during sunset or sunrise. And the action shots during bad weather really made it all come alive for me.

Of course, that does bring up one question I was left with. We're told multiple times how light the Morning Light is. They don't want more than 11 crew members because of the added weight. So how did they justify the crew and equipment to film the race?

I'm sure there is much more to this story that could have been explored. But for what we do have, Morning Light is an enjoyable film. There's an interesting story with a crew that seems to be likable.

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