Judge Ryan Keefer thinks that Obi-Wan Kenobi had it easy on this trip. Try putting Yoda and Jar Jar Binks on motorcycles or in situations where they'd have to deal with the Russian mafia.
Two friends. One extraordinary journey around the world.
Enter one recognizable actor (Ewan McGregor, Robots, Black Hawk Down, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith)
and his friend (Charley Boorman, The Serpent's Kiss, The Emerald Forest), who met on the
set of a film and have stayed close ever since. Both are motorcycle enthusiasts,
and talk about taking the ultimate bike trip, starting in London, and going
East, through Europe and Russia, before arriving in New York, 12 weeks and
20,000 miles later. Does Long Way Round provide for fun times?
Facts of the Case
The two-disc set of Long Way Round contains seven episodes, with the
first three on one disc, and the remainder on the other. I'm going to assume
that a lot of you have seen Episode III by now, and can presume that
McGregor is, in fact, alive, so you can't really consider any of these
descriptions as "spoilers." Either way, put your hands over your eyes
and scroll down if you don't want to read anything about the trip.
The episodes are as follows:
• Episode 1
The boys go through preparations and planning
for the trip. They court sponsors for bikes, equipment, anything that one can
think of, down to the requisite inoculations. They say the obligatory goodbyes
to friends and family (Yes, Charley's father is the John Boorman, of Hell in
the Pacific and Excalibur fame).
The trip is laid out to have just the two of them on bikes, along with a third
rider/cameraman. The cameraman, Claudio von Planta, arrives with no passport
(it's in Switzerland with his mother) and with a motorcycle license not
recognized by England. The details get finalized in the last 24-36 hours,
including a second production crew who travels at a distance from McGregor and
Boorman in Land Rovers, but the boys head out from London still missing a
• Episode 2
The boys managed to get out of London, and go
through France and Belgium before stopping in Prague. Claudio does manage to
pass his driver's test and meets up with the boys in Prague, and they continue
through the Ukraine, where they are given an unusual night by an interesting
host. After a night of good food and drink, the host goes upstairs, and returns
downstairs, a guitar in one hand, and an AK-47 machine gun in the other. Ewan
sums things up rather obviously when he says there are a lot of guns in the
house. They also stop at a UNICEF program being held in Kiev, one of several
similar stops they make on the tour.
• Episode 3
Upon leaving the Ukraine and entering
Kazakhstan, they are met warmly by a receiving group of dignitaries and
policemen. It's the start of a somewhat exploitative trip through the country,
as the government seems to think that Obi-Wan Kenobi motorcycling on their roads
will inspire people to summer there. In one instance where they refuse any sort
of motorcade, someone actually waves a pistol at them, which sobers them up
rather quickly. They also notice that the roads start to degrade. When I mean
degrade, I mean that there are no more signs of asphalt, and using the word
"roads" to describe them may be somewhat generous.
• Episode 4
Well, they may have some good food, but the
driving conditions in Mongolia are nasty. The boys frequently get stuck, and
make very little headway in terms of distance. At one point, Ewan and Charley
debate bailing out of Mongolia and back into Russia, where roads are better (or
plentiful), but decide against it, for fear of missing out on the experience
that they envisioned. Things take a serious turn when one of the support
vehicles has an accident and rolls on its side.
• Episode 5
The boys' decision to stick things out in
Mongolia proves to be a wise one, as not only do paved roads finally re-emerge,
but they enjoy a lot more of the culture and experiences within the country, as
well as making a stop in a UNICEF center in the Mongolian capital. They cross
into Russia and get on a train, as they prepare to go down the Road of Bones in
• Episode 6
The struggle through the Road of Bones is hard.
Basically, the road was constructed by Stalin, but actually built by the
prisoners and enemies of the state. Those enemies died due to the conditions,
and some of their remains are supposedly under the road. The roads are sometimes
impassable, due to high waters and destroyed bridges, but they use the help of
the locals to get the bikes across sometimes. The problem is that so few people
use the roads, there's a lot of waiting. So much waiting, that at one point,
they only travel 12 miles in one seven-hour stretch. There are a lot of bears
that run around too, and there is one pretty graphic instance where some of the
Russian crew gets out when seeing a bear, and shoots (and eventually skins) it,
so be prepared for that during this episode.
• Episode 7
Yahoo, North America! Yahoo, nice roads!
Despite some brush fires in Alaska that don't provide for as much pleasant
viewing of the landscape as they'd like. They make separate stops in the
Midwest, once in Minnesota, as a favor to an American they met in Mongolia, and
another in Illinois, to meet the family of one of the crew members. They stop in
upstate New York and meet Paul Teutel Sr. and Jr. (of American Chopper
lore), and meet up with their families just before the final ride into
One can't really appreciate the kind of logistical nightmares that you can
run into when scheduling a 20,000 mile road trip I guess. But the overall
feeling that you get as you watch McGregor and Boorman travel in various locales
is that they have a tremendous joy about what they are doing, and are ecstatic
in doing it. It's nice to see that there are friendly people in the furthest
reaches of the world, or perhaps it's because I've been subjected to so much
antipathy here, that I'm stunned when any two strangers shake hands. And to the
boys' credit, they try to talk as best to the locals of each country how they
can, even if language barriers are present.
The visuals that Long Way Round provides are amazing, there's no
doubt. But sometimes after awhile, the same beautiful landscape can be annoying.
Maybe it's because those who are industrialized sometimes have a yearning for
McDonald's and Starbucks, and if that's the case, it's a shame. But overall, the
experiences that the pair had, the food that they ate, and the roads that they
traveled will be experiences worth remembering.
Goldhil Home Media has included some extras on this two-disc set, starting
with almost 40 minutes of additional footage, most of which did not appear in
the final cut. Some of the material is actually pretty good. For instance,
McGregor snores like a bear, and he relays a funny story about being mistaken
for Jude Law. There's an all too brief post-trip interview with the two that
lasts just over five minutes, and there is no additional material on the second
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There are two things that annoy me when viewing Long Way Round on DVD.
The first is that while the shows are uncensored, so McGregor and Boorman are
free to utter whatever obscenity they please, some of them do have the beeps.
Why? What's the point? That's not the bigger issue though. The bigger issue is
that this set only has seven episodes, when other regions have 10. Sorry, to
release an abridged version of the trip makes no sense whatsoever. And not to
get McGregor and Boorman back together for anything longer than a five-minute
interview, without any episode commentaries, are foolish.
McGregor and Boorman managed to accomplish something that people only talk
about, and that is an admirable feat. However, Goldhil's presentation of the
trip leaves a lot to be desired. If you are a fan of the show, order it from
Canada or from the UK, as the more complete version of the show is featured
McGregor and Boorman are found innocent. They have done the impossible, and
are fortunate enough to have a video document of it. Goldhil is found utterly
guilty for releasing a shorter version of the show in some areas, while
releasing a complete version in others. You'll have to do better than that if
you want to get an acquittal from this court.
Give us your feedback!
Did we give Long Way Round a fair trial? yes / no
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Goldhil Home Media
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 350 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Reality TV
• Additional Footage
• Stills Gallery
• Post-trip Interview