A Rider's Video Review: Strength in Numbers
by Vital MTB member ballr
While attending the Sea Otter Classic last month, I had the opportunity to attend the premiere of Anthill Films' new effort, Strength in Numbers. I had watched the teasers released online and was eager to check it out. Held in downtown Monterey during Sea Otter, I have to say the event had a great vibe to it, with a cool display of pictures, some trick bikes, some folks dressed up like castoffs from a Reno 911 convention, and a bar right outside the theater. I saw lots of old friends and did some catching up before going in to watch the film.
With this film, the Anthill crew seeks to remind the viewer that all mountain bikers are connected in some way - their love for the outdoors, beautiful scenery, the simple sound of tires drifting through a turn, big air, and all things in between. To that end, they incorporate a basic, but effective, action film structure - lots of segments of great riders filmed in many exotic locations. They utilize quotes from famous authors at the beginning of each segment to help set the tone for the shredding that's about to go down.
In an effort to keep this brief, I just want to mention some of the flick's highlights:
Strength in Numbers started off with a banger race segment featuring some awesome action from last year's World Cup. I really like the angles they used - the helicopter shots and slow-mo thoughtfully allowed the viewer inside what happens to a bike and rider on a World Cup track.
I really enjoyed Adam Billinghurst's section from Whistler. Adam's ethos is admirable and a thing to be treasured. He's a great rider who has chosen to live his life a certain way. I really appreciated the way his segment was shared with other like-minded riders from the scene. I wish this section was longer.
There was a cool section shot in Nepal with Andrew Shandro and Rene Wildhaber that I really enjoyed. The scenery was amazing and the filmography was well-done. While I know Shandro and Wildhaber are awesome riders, I didn't really think footage of them shredding and pedaling so hard fit with the serenity and tranquility the rest of this segment promoted.
The Utah segment blew my mind. The riding from Agassiz, Howard and Vanderham leaves me without words. Mega-blasting and aggression for miles. Unbelievable.
I'd be lying if I said Anthony Messere's section didn't let me down a little. What was there was pretty good, but I want to see more of this kid. He's such a talent.
To me, the best segment in the film was about the Aptos crew. I found it to be very emotional and inspiring. Although I've been riding bikes for a long time, I've never seen expressed on film what riding means to me. This segment comes as close as it's going to get for me. The way those kids (and parents) have built and fostered a welcoming culture of biking is amazing. The filmmakers did an excellent job with the segment, utilizing archival footage and lots of testimonials from locals and nomads alike.
There was a lot more action, but I'm not gonna tell you about the whole damn movie...
Disclaimer, I don't know shit about making movies - action sports or otherwise. I have no idea what goes through the minds of the filmmakers when they set out on a project like this. All I know is it must seem like an insurmountable and epic task. I applaud them for their effort. Movies like Strength in Numbers help to drive our sport in so many ways. They inspire people to ride and get better. They bring new people into the sport. They help keep mountain biking relevant in an all-too-crowded actions sports genre. They are important.
I literally hate those non-film school-graduate, wanna-be film critics on forums who anonymously hate on someone's hard work and effort. "Too much slow-mo." "Too much fish-eye." Too much this." "Too much that." Sure, there were parts of this movie that could have been better. I don't see too much that I'd classify as "perfect" these days. To me, any mountain bike film that makes me want to drop what I'm doing and go ride is a success. Strength in Numbers achieves on this level in spades and I believe it is a fantastic success. Go watch it. You won't be disappointed.