Reveal the Path: A review

On Saturday, we caught a screening of Reveal the Path, the latest work by the same crew that made Ride the Divide a few years ago.

I went into this screening with high hopes — in part because Ride the Divide was pretty damned good, and in part because the trailer for this film was filled enticingly with shots of fat-bikes on Alaska beaches and other mountain bikes riding in the mountains and moors.

But ultimately, it was a disappointment. And this disappointment only grew as we talked about it after the film, and over the rest of the weekend.

Reveal the Path is deeply flawed, for two reasons:

  1. They indulge in endless amounts of lame, speak-to-the-camera philosophizing about revealing the path and other nonsense. It was tiresome and artless. Show me, don’t tell me, dammit. This made it all clear that there wasn’t really a story and that the film was just an occasion for a bunch of guys (except for the two Alaskan women, who live there and are only in that segment) to travel around, riding their bikes, and talking bullshit.
  2. There simply wasn’t enough cycling footage. For all of interesting places they went — Scotland, Switzerland, Morocco, Nepal, Alaska — there simply wasn’t enough footage of people riding bikes. The available time was taken up with people talking at the camera, badly.

And, there were three other things that bothered me, though they are so integral to a film like this that it’s hard to call them flaws as such.

  • The Salsa product placement was just a little too obvious. I know it had to be there, but there are also less obvious ways pleasing one’s sponsors than by lingering, shallow depth-of-field shots of head badges on titanium head tubes.
  • There were too many locations for the 36 days of travel involved in making the film. With travel days, that effectively means that they were spending 4-6 days in each place, which means that, to my way of thinking, they weren’t really traveling so much as vacationing in those places. It’s just too shallow (though that matched the philosophizing, I guess).
  • At times — specifically, when they were in Nepal and Morocco — it was discomfortingly clear that they were just privileged Westerners adventure-vacationing in the less-developed world. This led to even more blather about travel, and other cultures, and how special it was. In the end, they would have been better served by avoiding Nepal and Morocco altogether — which would have also allowed them to spend more time in the other locations.

The bottom line

Reveal the Path isn’t a bad film, but it’s not a good one either. And it’s nowhere near as good as Ride the Divide (which, for comparison, I watched again last night). Where Ride the Divide tells an inspirational (even for someone like me who’s unlikely to actually ride the Great Divide Route) story that’s sometimes funny and sometimes sad but always interesting, Reveal the Path is simply hackneyed and aimless.

Someone — anyone — should have done Mike Dion a service somewhere along the line and told him that there were at least three words that he was absolutely forbidden from using in the film: reveal the path.

11 thoughts on “Reveal the Path: A review

  1. Gotta sting a little for Mike Dion, cuz he seems like a good guy, but frankly he deserves a review like this. I found myself far more entertained by the live music preceding the movie, and that’s sayin’ something, coming from someone who loves bikes like I do.

    Also, an Open Letter to Kid Riemer:

    How did you get there? My guess would be: via a combination of commercial air travel and smaller air and land carriers. Oh, and lots and lots of money. As Steve pointed out in his review, everybody in this movie (nauseatingly) came off as a privileged Westerner waxing philosophical about what a mind-expanding experience cycling can be, but your pontification about having made the right decisions to lead you to it made me actually squirm in my seat. Thanks, bud.

  2. Michael makes another good point, which faded away a bit in my own mind when I was writing this.

    That is, the massive consumption of energy and resources required for a few guys (and yes, this was a near-total sausage fest) to travel the world. When this is combined with the hollow philosophizing about adventure, and following your bliss, and how cool all this is, it leaves a bitter taste.

    And I thought we were all squirming in our seats because the seats themselves were so broken down and uncomfortable.

    But to be fair to the live music, Dominique Fraissard is pretty damned good and I’d gladly hear him play again. He was in many ways — both in his music and his sense of humour — the highlight of the show.

  3. I saw this in Boulder last night, and left the theater with the same thoughts as you share here. I really had high expectations for this movie after Ride the Divide, but this one seemed to fail to give me anything to connect to like RtD did. Matthew Lee is an interesting character in RtD, but is seemingly 2 dimensional in RtP.

    I don’t really like beating up on this film as I support Mike in his endeavors, but this one really isn’t up to the level he established with RtD and I really had hoped to see significant progression not regression.

  4. Sadly, the review is a good one. The movie was disappointing. Listening to a bunch of guys who are barely out of their 20’s philosophizing about life choices and how getting out and seeing the world changes your perspective… blah blah blah. Yet no one made any real connections with people they saw on their ride, and they never convinced me that they learned anything about the world during the movie. Here’s an idea- TALK to some of the people you see and find out about THEIR lives and THEIR path, and how it might be different from yours. Maybe someone who has had some life experiences, maybe someone a few decades older than you? They rode through Morroco without anyone to translate for them. How do you connect with people if you can’t speak with them?

    The whole impression was that these guys wanted to take a really cool road trip and tried to dress it up as some quest for enlightenment so they could justify making a movie. Would have been better if they had just celebrated cycling in some really pretty/ cool places.

    Positive points- the scenery in the Alps was amazing. Loved the market scenes in Nepal.

  5. As much as talking to the people in the countries they visited seems like a good idea, I suspect that it would have been better, in this case, to just talk a whole lot less.

    It was, after all, all the talking and navel-gazing and talking that got them into trouble in the first place.

    In retrospect, one should have been alarmed that the opening scene was not a bunch of riders riding, but instead a bunch of the lads in a cabin, talking shit.

  6. I’m not going to be as nice as most of you…10 minutes in, I was lost and really wished I was just home in my pool listening to Pandora radio. Could have been so great if they picked better destinations and reported more and filmed more of the actual cool riding. I don’t need lectured on why to ride my bike and experience cultures I don’t ever to encounter again. That’s the way it came across to me. Epic Fail.

  7. I am easy to please when the subject matter is to my liking. I love a good slide show about bikes and I’ll read some pretty bad writing just because it is about what I am interested in….biking.

    I saw Ride The Path last night at Brewvies in Salt Lake. This morning I went in search of people talking about how bad it was. That was easy.

    It seems like a film one would make to show off to their mom. Who else could love it? What was accomplished? A vacation shot with gopros and a DSLR, often out of focus(strange long periods). There was no story and oddly, no path. Unexplained guys on unexplained bikes went on unexplained rides. Bikepacking was the game and part of the time they had bikepacks on, but not sure why. Other days, just the camera man has a backpack. Who knows. The alaska biking looks like a photo day around various scenic spots with a clam dig and a fire ending with average fire talk about how lucky they are to be there( on a salsa advertisement shoot?). The audience was preached to and showed-off to rather than included in their mediocre, accidental adventure.

    Brutal. Gag me with a titanium spork.

  8. Thanks for the review.. i suspected the film would turn out as you’ve described simply by looking at the trailer.. The opening sequences in the trailer wowed me away. The combo of choice music + beauty shots of cycling really worked out well. Then the rest of the trailer consisted of riding through exotic looking locations and streets. Most shots of the locals were done while walk or riding past them. I figured these must be the best shots they have highlighting local cultures.. THere’s a showing of this movie this weekend organized by my local LBS, complete with an accompanying “Salsa demo day”.. I planned on making a day out of the events- check out the bikes and then the flick… Upon reading the reviews.. I think I’ll just do some riding on the local trails instead..

  9. After watching the movie I just had to go online to see if I was just out of joint or what, I basically kept waiting for the movie to start. Seeing how many others were disappointed solidifies my impression, an epic fail. If I had seen this in a theater and paid 9 bucks I could live with it but after paying 40$ it got pushed into the epic fail category. I honestly don’t know how you get from Ride the Divide kind of quality to this. These guys are superhuman mtber’s but they shouldn’t be trying to act.

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