Charge: Film Review

Charge Movie Still - H 2013

Charge Movie Still - H 2013

This green-themed racing doc will please gearhead environmentalists.

Motorcycle racing goes from thunderous to whisper-quiet in doc about an electric-powered grand prix.

Will motorcycle enthusiasts still want to ride if they can't produce an obnoxious amount of noise and feel a combustion engine's explosive vibrations between their legs? Will fans of racing still want to watch? Or will the world simply meet a new sort of cyclist? Mark Neale observes the birth of Earth-friendly racing in Charge, a doc about the world's first zero-emissions motorcycle grand prix. A focus on the novel challenges of building high-performance electric vehicles should attract an audience beyond the one reached by Neale's previous moto docs Faster and Fastest (all three are narrated by Ewan McGregor), though most of that audience will encounter it on small screens.

The landmark zero-emissions race was held in 2009 on the Isle of Man, whose TT (Tourist Trophy) course is both prestigious and deadly, long revered by fans of conventional motorcycle racing. Neale focuses on two teams who have only a few months to build bikes that can withstand the demands of such a contest: Portland, Oregon's MotoCzysz, whose Michael Czysz was looking for ways to revive a failing business building bikes in the U.S.; and Team Agni, which paired Indian manufacturers with English inventor Cedric Lynch -- a barefoot, self-taught eccentric with a voice made for Wallace and Gromit.

Lynch is quite a character, but Neale focuses less on personalities than on tinkering. Much time is devoted to the engineering differences between using combustion engines and electric ones to drive cycles: The latter are simpler in many respects, but their straightforward operation presents challenges for vehicles that can't go from zero to sixty, much less 100 mph, without a bit of gradual acceleration.

Designs that look revolutionary in the garage prove faulty in the field, and Charge finds plenty of drama in the days surrounding both the 2009 race and its 2010 follow-up. It also observes as racers accustomed to conventional bikes take these for a spin: Though all expect to miss the old sensations, most seem charmed by the experience of, for example, being able to hear a crowd cheering them on for the first time in their lives.

Production Company: Charge Productions

Director-Screenwriter: Mark Neale

Producers: Paul Kewley, Mark Neale

Executive producers: Chris Paine, John O'Grady, Chuck Ryant, Dominic Saville

Director of photography: Chris Norr

Music: tomandandy

Editor: Rochelle Watson

No rating, 92 minutes