The first big-screen IMAX movie about the Tour de France captures some stunning race footage and uses computer-generated graphics nicely to show non-fans the grueling character of the course the cyclists must cover. But “Wired to Win” doesn’t want simply to record the event. It tries to personalize it by concentrating on two participants, both members of a French team though one is an Australian. And it seeks to tie the race story to a larger scientific treatment of how the brain functions in human activity, especially of the extreme sort. And it’s in these two areas that the forty-minute picture comes up short.
The race that serves as the focus of the film was in 2003, and some footage is devoted to Lance Armstrong, who was the ultimate winner. But the major emphasis is on Jimmy Casper, who was seriously injured in a spill and showed his pluck by continuing as long as he could, and Baden Cooke, an up-and-coming youngster who’s aiming to win the green jersey that marks the fastest rookie. The two men, it turns out, are hardly natural screen personalities; in their interview segments and screen interaction off the bikes they come across as posed and stilted. Still, on the wheels they’re graceful and intense, and the race footage captured by director Bayley Silleck captures those qualities (though some was apparently “re-created”). The filmmakers use various devices–including split screens and graphics–well in the process, too.
The real problem with “Wired to Win” comes in the effort to connect the exciting race material with a scientific discussion of how the brain works to control the body’s response to stimuli in such stressful conditions. In these segments the picture becomes more like a high-school instructional short–one that’s an exceptionally good example of the genre, to be sure, but still pedantic and dull, especially given the soporific narration delivered by Alfred Molina, who doesn’t sound too interested himself.
The result is a little movie that offers a nice visual overview of the Tour, but doesn’t quite work either as an insightful portrait of its competitors or as a science lesson.