Thursday, November 16, 2006


Starring Ewan McGregor
Reviewed by Byron Merritt



Many people dream of round-the-world trips but few are ever able to take them. Be it time or financial constraints, the barriers are often broad and appear unwieldy. So many times we have to experience the rest of the world vicariously via magazine articles or, in this case, a documentary.

LONG WAY ROUND was the brainchild of actor Ewan McGregor (STAR WARS) and his longtime buddy Charley Boorman (ON EDGE), two men with a passion for motorcycling. One day they decide to give this round-the-world idea some wings by mapping out a course across the globe ...but instead of traveling by plane or rail, they decide to do it using two BMW motorbikes.

Preparation for the trip starts months in advance as transportation is arranged, passports collected, boarder crossing ensured, and training of the two riders takes place (CPR, first aid, exercising, motorcycle training, Russian language classes, etc.)

The trip begins in London, England and ends 115 days later in New York. The trip starts out well enough, with adequately paved roads and quaint villages. But the further east McGregor and Boorman travel, the less biker-friendly the way becomes. Smooth asphalt quickly gives way to pitted asphalt, then divot-riddled asphalt, then into dirt roads. Once into Mongolia, anything resembling a sustainable thoroughfare becomes completely blurred by bogs, riverbeds and stretches of absolute nothingness.

Difficulty of traveling aside, the two bikers meet some of the most incredible people. Ewan McGregor being Ewan McGregor, he is initially seen as a hero, a movie-star bringing notice to these otherwise unnoteworthy locales. Police escorts pop-up out of nowhere and guide Ewan and Charley into small townships where parties await them in their honor. But, again, the further east our two journeymen head, the less this happens. In and out of Mongolia, they soon head up into Siberia where they encounter The Road of Bones, a stretch of road built by slave labor during Stalin’s tyranny (many a dead slaves body rests somewhere beneath this road ...or so it is said). No one knows who Ewan McGregor is here.

Pushing themselves to the limit, the two slush through wetlands, river crossings and some of the worst roadways in the world. Even a support crew that follows them has great difficulties, one time crashing their vehicle and nearly killing some of the passengers.

Arriving 115 days later in New York, many viewers will breath a sigh of relief for Charley and Ewan. The intensity of the trip is well-spent on the audience, helping the viewer feel the pressure and difficulties of the route. But it also helps us see that what is often said to be impossible is, in fact, possible if you apply yourself hard enough. That and the exposure to the myriad of other cultures makes this documentary a strong film.

No movie trailer available ...soooorrrrry!


Blogger Wendy said...

This is a TRUE reality show. These guys faced real unscripted danger, not situations set up by some producer, and 911 wasn't available to call. The stream and river crossings in Siberia are some of the most chilling footage I've ever watched. That Ewan and Charley remained so likeable throughout it and such strong friends with the tiny crew is a real credit to all of them. I look forward to their next adventure in spring-summer 2007 when they ride "Long Way Down" from Scotland to Cape Town, South Africa, with the same crew. Much as I adore Ewan, I'm also smitten with cameraman Claudio von Planta :)

1:01 PM  
Blogger "The Fanatic" said...

I thought Claudio was a bit too reckless. How many times did he damage or crash a motorbike? Nonetheless, it certainly added to the entertainment of watching this show.

1:46 PM  

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