Review of IMAX film Extreme

Friday, June 30th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Those who can, do. Those who can't, watch movies about it.

That's a cynical oversimplification, of course, but it does put some of us in our place. Those whose idea of extreme athletics is climbing the stadium steps of a modern megaplex will still be able to relate to the new IMAX film Extreme.

Exquisitely shot, the 45-minute IMAX film documents six high-risk sports that require extreme skill and concentration: surfing, snowboarding, ice climbing, rock climbing, skiing and windsurfing. It does so in a manner both awe-inspiring and accessible.

Accessibility, in fact, is the key.

The athletes talk about the sensations of feeling "harmony with the mountain" and being on an "even flow with the wave" - phrases that might sound faux-poetic outside the context of the film. But when merged with the visual images, the words become truly poetic, no faux about it. The movie presents the relationship between nature and human beings as harmonious and mutually nurturing.

It may be New Age, but it's effective New Age.
Director Jon Long and his crew filmed the sports in the most extreme circumstances. The winds and high surf of the North Shore of Maui provided the windsurfing location. The big-wave surfing scenes were shot on the largest ocean swell of the 20th century, formed when El Nino hit the North Shore of Hawaii. El Nino also was responsible for the 50-degree slopes where the skiing episodes were shot.

Snowboarding sequences were shot on the highest, steepest peaks in Alaska. Ice climbing occurred on the Delphine Glacier, one of the world's most spectacular icefalls, while southern Utah was the site of the rock-climbing vignettes.

Mr. Long's cameras capture the serene daredevil athletes from unexpected angles, and one scene of a young windsurfer flying into the sky, getting uncomfortably close to a helicopter blade, is breathtaking.

The film is blessed with a sense of wholeness. It's in harmony with the athletes, who of course are in total harmony with nature.