sports gazette

'I Am Bolt' Film Review

Published: 29 Nov 2016

Sports Gazette watched the premiere of ‘I Am Bolt’, which documents the life of the Triple Treble Olympic champion.

‘I Am Bolt’ explores the career of the fastest man on the planet in a rather relaxing time of 105 minutes.

Blending together scenes of Bolt training with his coach Glen Mills, preparing for races and spending time with family and friends, the film tells the story of Bolt’s career from a close-up angle.

Bolt was given a camera to do a lot of his own filming to bring the audience closer to the man himself.

It is very tempting to say this film shows the story behind the achievement and personality of this world-renowned, superstar athlete… and yet it doesn’t.

Despite placing the camera literally under Bolt’s nose, there is still something missing from this film: a connection.

Throughout the film, there are glancing shots of Bolt relaxing with his family, reminiscing over his previous achievements, and in the very depths of pain during training.

However, these are very rare as the rest of the film covers his career on the track. Whilst this is from the perspective of Bolt himself, it is a story told many times before.

Anyone looking to find out something different about how Bolt became the fastest man on the planet, with heaps of personality, may be disappointed.

In fact, the delivery of 'I Am Bolt' is quite predictable- it is done it in a beautiful and imaginative way but it is still expected.

Every Olympic 100m final- Beijing in 2008, London in 2012 and Rio in 2016- and the 2015 World Championship final is slowed down with only the voice of Bolt explaining his thoughts to accompany it. Beautiful, but expected.

In the build-up to Rio, shots of Bolt in the press conference are accompanied by doubtful questions from reporters.

This seamlessly flows into Bolt training alone, accompanied by famous names such as Serena Williams and Pele discussing the loneliness of elite athletic achievement.

Again, beautiful shots but expected. If you read at least one article ahead of the Rio Olympics, you would have been aware of Bolt’s troubles this season. This cinematic approach makes the scenario appear 'exclusive'.

After a period of doubt earlier in the year, Bolt was re-motivated by Gatlin’s comments that he would wear the Olympic gold medal “like a gold chain”.

Cue hard training accompanied by the track ‘As We Enter’ by Nas & Damian Marley, son of legendary singer Bob Marley. A powerful, beautiful montage, but again expected.

For a film which promised to show ‘what Bolt is really like’, according to the summary on Odeon's wesbite, close followers of Bolt may find themselves wanting more.

Bolt seems distant in this film despite the proximity of filming.

Even in scenes with Bolt filming on his own, there is a rehearsed feeling about it, which seems to dampen his colourful personality.

The only part that felt real was Bolt’s anger at the Americans' comments on his withdrawal from Olympic qualification in Jamaica last July due to injury.

His anger, combined with the words of his American critics on-screen, resonated and allowed the audience a rare glimpse of a new side to ‘nice-guy’ Bolt.

In addition, the structure of the film appears confusing. Perhaps in an attempt to fit in interviews from everyone, the story jumps to different points in time rather than flowing chronologically.

The more this carried on, the more desperate it felt to fit his entire career into the allotted time. Then thoughts have to turn to production.

The film was directed by Benjamin and Gabe Turner, directors of ‘The Class of 92’ and TV special ‘Mo Farah: Chasing Greatness’, following Farah for a year in the build-up to Rio.

However, one of the co-producers is Nugent ‘NJ’ Walker, Executive Manager and lifelong friend to Bolt. The question is: did he rule this project with an iron fist?

Put yourself in Walker’s shoes: as Bolt’s Executive Manager, what would you want the film to do? Glorify Bolt’s achievements, emphasise the love of his Jamaican roots and, most importantly, maintain the image of Bolt the world knows with litte or no deviation from it.

This could be a reason why Bolt seems so distant, despite the proximity of the actual filming.

Sparks of his famous personality come through, such as singing ‘Bump and Grind’ on a Swegway in his room and chatting to people in Kingston, but it feels as if they have been ‘passed by PR’ rather than captured in the moment.

‘I Am Bolt’ feels like an opportunity missed to get behind the story of a sporting superstar.

The viewer is treated to shots of Bolt in his inner circles but will not come out learning anything new about the world’s fastest man.

Some may call this film the victory of a PR man because it tells you what you need to know rather than what you want to know. Most will probably say: “‘I Am Bolt’: yeah, tell me something I don’t know.”

 'I Am Bolt' premiered on Monday 28th November in Leicester Square, screened at selected Odeon cinemas across the country. It is now available to watch on Virgin Movies.

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