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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Steep (review)

I guess I’m simply never going to be one of those type-A people, because when I see daredevil skiiers riding avalanches and saying things like “The high is worth the risk,” I can only shake my head in dubious wonder and think: Damn, these people are nuts. I had lots of opportunities to do that in this visually gorgeous documentary, shot in some of the most remote and most snowy environments around the world, about people who boldly ski where no one has skiied before. There are no rules, no lines for lifts, and presumably no chance of getting life insurance for these dudes — and they are mostly male; one rare female is deemed (approvingly so) “a guy with a ponytail” — as a small cadre of very rich men with lots of time and adrenaline to spare has created, over the course of the past few decades, yet another athletic way to kill yourself. First they merely went to places with no lodges and nice pack, like the moutains of Alaska, and called it “ski mountaineering.” Then they added helicopters (complete with daredevil pilots) to take them to places where even off-road vehicles can’t get you, and called it “heli skiing.” Then they dared verticals upwards of 45 and 50 degrees, which becomes nothing but falling with style. Then some hotshot kid decide to wear a parachute and not worry about whether the trail he blazed actually finished at the bottom of the mountain… There’s something a big pornographic about this, but that’s okay: as vicarious danger fixes go, this is harmless enough. But I wish the filmmakers had gone a bit more into the psychology of what drives these men. There’s an ironic kicker at the end that is meant to serve as the extent of the philosophical pondering of the risk/reward equation the extreme skiiers supposedly engage in, but it’s too little, too late.

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MPAA: rated PG for extreme sports action and brief language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
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