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New Release Review - BASE

base movie review
The dangerous exploits of a group of base jumping friends.







Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Richard Parry

Starring: Julie Dray, Alexander Polli, Carlos Pedro Briceno, Riquier Vincendeau-Verbraeken

base uk poster

On the 21st of August 2016, Alexander Polli, 31-year-old Italo-Norwegian base jumper, died after crashing into a forest near Chamonix at an altitude of 1,500m. The tragedy is corroborated by the end title of Base, which commemorates Mr. Polli and adds the caption ‘He died doing what he loved’. For the uninitiated (like me), the sad series of intertitles comes as a shock, as the preceding film has starred the very same Polli, with the movie forging an ersatz narrative from the base jumper’s own go-pro footage of daring descents from the world’s most beautiful vantage points, interspersed with some sort of romantic drama concerning his mate’s girlfriend (and, also, an unfortunately congruent plot theme of base jumpers violently perishing as a result of their daring hobby), in this film about extreme sports.


base

Essentially a hagiography of Polli, the tragic circumstances that are associated with Base make it a difficult film to review with complete impartiality. The film relies almost wholly upon Polli’s footage, and, as you watch Polli and co take the plunge, the thrill of the jump - the fall through clear blue air, the infinity of space all around, the hard ground rapidly rising below - is to be found in the leaper’s sheer rejection of gravity, the dare to fate, and, yes, the ultimate cheating of death itself. Perhaps Polli did die doing what he loved, but I would imagine he’d rather not have died at all; it is discomfiting to view Polli’s endeavours as entertainment when one is aware of the ultimate consequences of his jumps. But this is not ‘The Hagiography Waffler’ or even ‘The Base Jump Waffler’, this is a movie review site, and with respect to Polli and the film-makers (Richard Parry, Tom Williams: writer/director, writer) Base deserves to be judged on its cinematic merits, independent of the heart-breaking circumstances surrounding it.


base

There is a reason why there has never been a good movie, or, indeed, many movies at all, based on the theme of extreme sports: watching them is really, really boring. No skateboarding, sky diving or kite surfing flicks of note, no epics based upon ice canoeing or bungee jumping: these pursuits are no doubt thrilling for those implicated by the action, but, like other people’s dreams or other people on drugs, extreme sports are deeply uninteresting for those not directly involved. Okay, Point Break is one for the ages, but Kathryn Bigelow (who, it must be said, is also gifted with being perhaps our most intuitive and visceral action director) married hyperbolic surf scenes with plot features such as homoerotic bromance and good old-fashioned crime drama. Base is largely made up of jump footage, with the plot only occasionally peeking in to disrupt the endless, screensaver-esque sequences of free floating jumpers, as if the narrative is just an afterthought improvised around the golden footage of Polli’s jumps. However, while there is a majesty to these scenes of vast mountainous landscapes, it is the sort of dreamy grandeur that would be better suited set to a soundtrack of Boards of Canada or Four Tet on a fan made video on YouTube, and not used to augment narrative cinema as it is here.


base

The plot, as laid out by imdb, concerns J.C. (Polli) ‘a global playboy who lives his life quite literally on the edge, pursuing man's greatest dream - to fly’. Well, good for J.C. and his jet-setting philandering lifestyle; the rest of us (referred to in the movie by J.C. as ‘everybody down there’- oh, cheers pal!) just have to get on with things. J.C. and his mates, Chico (Carlos Pedro Briceno) and Ash (Julie Dray), are the sort of people who listen to Rudimental, bump fists with no sense of irony and are very hard to sympathise with. There is talk of fathers committing suicide, and the fatalities within the film lead to much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but the sense of danger engendered by the deaths of three characters due to force of gravity is always undercut by a subsequent edit to yet another aspirational sequence of wistful gliding. It all looks rather lovely, but that’s about it. Fans of base jumping will find much to enjoy in Base with its unique and authentic footage from across the globe. For the rest of us, however, we needn’t take the plunge.

BASE is in UK Cinemas 27 October and available Worldwide on iTunes and On Demand from 6th November #BASEMovie




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