There is, and always will be a fascination with sports stories. Whether it be documentaries or Hollywood recreating a famous sporting personality’s life on the big screen, these films all have the same appeal, and that’s watching what these athletes have to endure both mentally and physically in order to become the best. Thankfully, for a cricket novice like me, The Edge’s focus is not on explaining the intricacies of cricket, but the grit that goes into making a dominant force in the world of test cricket.
The documentary tells the story of England’s test squad from the year 2009 to 2013. After a brief history of the significance and history of cricket in various countries, we begin with Andrew Strauss explaining how he became England’s captain after Kevin Pietersen’s short and horrific stint as captain. However, post-his appointment, Strauss and the team suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of West Indies, when they were bowled out with only fifty-one runs on the scoreboard, a record low that has only been beaten by two performances in 1887 and 1994 respectively.
They were down and out, and then came the South African disciplinarian, Andrew Flower. Andrew Flower took over as the coach of England and in a brutal assessment of the team’s work ethic and performances, set them what seemed like an outlandish target of becoming the number one team in the world in two years.
As I mentioned earlier, The Edge is a cricket story, but more than that, it’s an in-depth analysis of the psychological side of athletes looking to become the best in their respective fields. The film does a great job of breaking down different members of the team, and giving us a back story into their strengths and weaknesses, and also a self-evaluation from the player them self. The most memorable, and perhaps most entertaining player profile is Monty Panesar. He is introduced as a great spin bowler and a terrible batsman and was then shown joining James Anderson as England’s last hope of not losing the opening test match to Australia during the 2009 Ashes series. Even Monty’s teammate Paul Collingwood recalled how he lost all hope as he knew it was Monty stepping in as the final batsman. Monty would somehow survive, as he and James helped England secure a draw to help build the teams confidence. That particular story encapsulates the films intelligent approach of taking us through the mindset of the players, but with some comedic relief as well.
Humour is often an essential ingredient when a film such as this has a desire to reach out to audiences beyond its diehard fanbase. It’s an icebreaker for those that are not familiar with the topic. When we see personal videos of the players playing video games, having “banter” with one another and even swearing during their gruelling workouts, it creates an attachment for the audiences as they become relatable. And for those who thought cricket players had no personality; this is certainly an eye-opener. Graeme Swann is without a doubt the standout when it comes to humorous moments, and his story detailing the moment that he finally lifts the tiny Ashes trophy, only to be disappointed by finding a price tag below it sums this up.
The Edge has a perfect runtime of ninety-one minutes, as it does not overstay its welcome. Also, shots like the one of Jonathan Trott in a peaceful field work wonders when explaining his theory on concentration, and then the reincorporation of this during the team’s decline, showing Trott in a dark and busy city, beautifully symbolises the mental collapse of Trott and England as a whole.
Mental preparation has become very important for athletes, especially in the last decade. High-profile UFC fighter Ben Askren regularly brings up the importance of sports psychology, so it was good to see the team, and Andrew Flower acknowledging that hard work and discipline can only take you so far if you refuse to focus on individual personalities.
Unfortunately, The Edge’s desire for humour includes odd cutaways to cheesy old footage, with equally cheesy narration that is not effective but just plain irritating. There were times where Andrew Strauss or another member of England’s team was talking seriously about a particular match, only for it to be interrupted by a comedic narration that takes you out of the film and the moment that is being built up.
Overall, the film delivers another impactful, underdog sports tale that is informative for fans, and in particular, non-cricket fans as it shows that this is much more than men in long trousers throwing around a red ball.
Dir: Barney Douglas
Scr: Barney Douglas, Gabriel Clarke
Prd: Barney Douglas
DoP: Lucas Tucknott
Music: Felix White
Runtime: 95 mins
The Edge is coming to cinemas & across all platforms on 22 July 2019