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film review

U.S. snowboarder Kevin Pearce in The Crash Reel.

The hook of The Crash Reel is that it's about the rivalry between two famous American snowboarders, but in reality, Lucy Walker's slickly produced documentary is about one man's ongoing battle with himself – on and off the slopes.

Unable to definitively defeat U.S. Olympic teammate Shaun White in international competitions, Kevin Pearce pushed his skills to the brink while training for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and sustained a near-fatal head injury in the process. Walker's camera intimately records his recovery process, while also pulling back to observe the pressures of the extreme-sporting culture that mythologizes – and profits from – its superstars' kamikaze mentality.

Part character study, part exposé, The Crash Reel is a study in a very stubborn and potentially self-destructive sort of courage, and an example of how non-fiction filmmaking can resemble great dramatic storytelling without sacrificing journalistic rigour.