Sony // 2007 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // April 17th, 2008
Without risk, there is no adventure.
You have to ski it to believe it!
If you love skiing and find it hard to resist the beauty of snow-covered mountains, Steep is a must-see. Documentary filmmaker Mark Obenhaus brings the thrills of extreme skiing straight into your living room, offering his viewers stunning footage of some of the world's most courageous, craziest skiers. Shot in some of the most breathtaking mountain areas on the planet, the film follows a bunch of these fearless athletes on their quest to pull off perilous stunts and complete the steepest runs possible. Besides capturing skiers such as Bill Briggs, Shane McConkey, Doug Coombs, and Chris Davenport as they have a go at the most dangerous slopes you can possibly imagine, Obenhaus also filmed them sharing their passion about extreme skiing in a horde of interviews.
Steep is a thrilling experience and a must-see for everyone who takes pleasure in skiing. No doubt about that. While Mark Obenhaus' passionate documentary centers primarily on the kick to ski where no one ever thought to ski before, the film also offers viewers the opportunity to get to know the few men and women who risk their lives every time they head out to pursue their passion. In thought-provoking interviews, athletes such as Douglas Coombs, Stefano De Benedetti, Glen Plake, and Chris Davenport discuss the true beauty of extreme skiing, emphasizing on what skiing means to them and how the perilous sport has helped them shape their lives. "I tried to become a normal person and have a normal job, but that didn't work," Coombs says. For De Benedetti, skiing often makes him feel like a "little Superman."
Steep focuses largely on today's brave skiers and their crazy attempts to conquer the most dangerous mountains on the planet, but the film also goes back in time, chronicling the successes of some of the most well-known extreme skiers, including Bill Briggs, Pierre Tardivel, and Patrick Vallencant. Obenhaus also honors the birth of ski films, which brought the excitement of extreme skiing into everybody's living room and influenced many of today's top skiers. The most influential American film was The Blizzard of AAHHH's, which starred Glen Plake, a.k.a. "The Man with the Mohawk." Furthermore, the skiers also discuss the dangers of the mountains and what kind of experience it takes to read the mountains accurately before hitting the slopes. Up there, they tell us, you have no friend to talk to. You are surrounded by complete solitude.
While the interviews help audiences understand the intensity of the sport, it's the film's groundbreaking footage that really keeps you on the edge of your seat for the full 92 minutes. Glorious shots from the valley of Chamonix in France and the Alaskan peaks, among countless others, illustrate the beauty of the snow-covered mountains and clearly depict how exciting extreme skiing can be if you put your heart to it. The footage is truly incredible and highly entertaining, supplying viewers with some of the craziest stunts on skis ever attempted. It's a real pleasure watching these men and women flying down the slopes and literally jumping through the air against a beautiful background of valleys and mountains.
Obenhaus used first-class equipment to capture the genius of his skiers, and the picture quality is fabulous throughout. The film also contains tons of photographs and footage from old ski films and interviews, but the transfer on this disc is clean and the image sharp enough at all times. The audio transfer works just as well, and the voiceovers are perfectly balanced out with Anton Sanko's flawless score.
The pleasure of watching Steep, however, does not end with the insightful interviews or the dazzling footage. Those of you blown away by the feature film should definitely check out the bonus material on the DVD. The highlight on the disc is a 17-minute behind-the-scenes look entitled "Shooting Steep," in which Mark Obenhaus explains how his team used a high-tech cable camera to capture the majority of the impressive stunts. Unlike your typical making-of, this piece is actually a photomontage of set pictures accompanied by Obenhaus' voiceover commentary. Besides discussing filming techniques, he also explains how challenging the relocation of all the equipment was in the mountains. The amount of logistics involved in this film was enormous, and the collection of high-quality pictures sure proves Obenhaus' case.
Besides this interesting featurette, the special features section also includes a two-minute photomontage of the film's heroic skiers, an informative 13-minute Q&A session with Obenhaus and skiers Ingrid Backstrom and Andrew McLean at the 2007 AFI Fest, and an emotional interview with Doug Coombs, who died in a tragic skiing accident just a few weeks after his participation in the movie. Coombs briefly explains what it is he adores about skiing and his skiing experiences, pointing out how crucial it is in this sport to respect the power of the mountains. Hardcore skiers will also have a good time listening to Obenhaus' commentary, during which he repeats most of the issues he brings up in the behind-the-scenes look and the AFI interview. His passion for this film, however, is easily noticeable in the way he speaks about the project.
If you plan on conquering the mountains on skis yourself in the near future, watching Steep is a great way to start your research. For occasional skiers who want to keep the extreme out of the sport and watch the professionals taking a shot at it, the film serves as a compelling insight into the minds of those few daring athletes who reach the limits of human endurance every time they try to ski a mountain no one has ever skied before.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Filmmaker's Commentary by Mark Obenhaus
* Q&A Session with Director Mark Obenhaus
* Two Exclusive Photomontages
* Interview with Doug Coombs
* Official Site