Film Review – The Crash Reel



Title: The Crash Reel

Director: Lucy Walker

Starring: Kevin Pearce, Shaun White, Sarah Burke

Release Date: 4th October


The Crash Reel, directed by Lucy Walker, is a documentary produced by HBO that focuses on the intense rivalry between two gifted sportsmen and how it pushes them to their limits.

Here, the sport is snowboarding. It is a perilous pursuit, as athletes spin around above half-pipes rising as high as twenty-two feet, performing various tricks. The documentary stars Kevin Pearce, a grinning, likeable man, alongside his competitor, the solitary Shaun White.

The pair first met at a competition as children and became friends. That friendship, however, suffered when they began to compete against one another. Pearce often came out on top, and this soured relations between the two men.

The Crash Reel opens with Pearce in the middle of his busy preparation for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. It is evident that he has a tight support network of family and friends around him, and is a happy, well-adjusted man.  It is a pleasure to watch his interviews.

We then watch on as he pirouettes through the air in snowboarding havens such as Aspen and Salt Lake City. It’s hard not to wince as he careens down steep slopes at breakneck speeds.

His life soon changes drastically, however, when he falls face first into the snow and is rushed to hospital with critical injuries. Thankfully, Pearce eventually awakens from his coma, but must learn to walk and talk again, and live with impaired vision.

Most people might want to hide from the world and never leave their homes after such a horrific ordeal, but Pearce is determined to get on his board again, much to his family’s despair. His neurologist strongly advises him against snowboarding, but he hits the slopes once more regardless; not competitively, but rather to scratch the itch he’s had since the accident.

It’s a wonderful resolution to see Pearce receive a trophy from the association for people affected by traumatic brain injuries. However, not everyone is as lucky as Pearce.

In 2012, twenty-nine-year-old skier Sarah Burke was injured on the same half-pipe as Pearce and later died. Shaun White later dedicated his participation in a competition to the woman. It’s devastating, but as the quote says, “The brave do not live long, but the cautious never really live at all.”

The words are fitting for this documentary about defying the odds and soaring through the sky in a blaze of glory, whatever the cost.

In a Nutshell: An intriguing and at times very moving documentary about the dangerous, thrilling sport of snowboarding, and one man’s fight to rebuild his life.