SXSW Review: Time Trial

Score: B+

Director: Finlay Pretsell

Running Time: 82 Minutes

Rated: Not Rated

David Millar was basically the Lance Armstrong of the UK. A champion of multiple European races, he also led several stages of some Tours de France in the early ’00s, when Armstrong ultimately won an unprecedented seven straight races. Of course, we all know that Armstrong was disgraced after admitting a years-long web of deception about his ingestion of performance-enhancing drugs. Millar was also discovered to have taken PEDs and was banned from the sport from 2004 to 2006. He eventually returned to cycling, hoping to prove to himself and the world that he could still compete at a high level without the drugs.

But Time Trial, while basking in Millar’s triumphs, also shows the ravages of age, particularly on athletes. At 37, his body simply can’t keep up with younger riders and, presumably, those still loading themselves up with banned substances. While the film is less interested in taking shots at the corruption and hypocrisy of the cycling industry, the implication is pretty clear that the sport is hardly “cleaned up.”

While there are brief segments of interviews with a clearly emotional Millar, most of the film is documentary footage from the various time trials to qualify for the 2014 Tour de France. Using high-def cameras, GoPros, dash-cams and other sources, we see all angles of the race, from the agonizing climbs up mountains, the exhilarating rushes down hills and everything in between. It gives us an extremely intimate look at the toll racing takes on a person.

But the movie is at its best when it’s just showing the roads teeming with athletes and their crews. Set to a score by experimental artist Dan Deacon, it’s beautiful and moving, coming closer to an art film like Koyaanisqatsi.

Time Trial is for more than just cycling fans. It’s an exceptional, in-depth look at the bitter end of one man’s dream.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

Leave a Reply