Since 1996 Teton Gravity Research has been making action films that have consistently taken Bruce Brown’s format of epic athlete + cool location = money shot and squared the result, delivering footage of such breathless drama that you can measure the drop in CO2 emissions in the theaters where their films are shown. Of course, they are best known for ski films, but with unReal, they reset the bar for what a mountain bike can be, or ought to be.
That you’re reading this suggests your airtime is measured by Delta, United or maybe Southwest. Hucking may not be a verb you use. And you might not think a mountain bike film is your thing. I’m here to dissuade you of that idea.
Teton Gravity Research’s unReal is a masterpiece of unlikely, stringing impossibility upon impossibility into a jewel of science fiction pearls. We often like to speak of a poetry of motion in trying to describe the elegance of certain athletes. UnReal captures moments so overstuffed with beauty that it’s easy to underestimate some of the film’s most graceful passages in their nonchalance.
It wasn’t so long ago that a still like the one above would have been a preview of disaster as it impends. But this is one click of the shutter as it captured something so fluid that it seemed less a series of tricks and more an artful disregard of gravity, the way a basketball player might go from bouncing the ball off a bicep, only to spin it on his fingertip.
Hopefully you’ve seen the segment of Brandon Semenuk shot in Cambria and captured in a single, flowing scene. I’ve watched a dozen times and have yet to draw a single breath as it runs. I can say that the rest of the film is as worthwhile and in some cases even more implausible.
UnReal is touring right now, making its way to theaters across the U.S. Last night it was hosted in Santa Rosa and a bunch of like-minded individuals sat, stunned into drooling incredulity as the film played. Even if it’s not going to hit a theater near you, there are plenty of ways to see it. There are better ways to spend an hour, but not from your couch.