Director: Richard Parry
Cast: Julie Dray, Alexander Polli, Carlos Pedro Briceño
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“When your life flashes before your eyes, make sure that you have plenty to watch.” That philosophical platitude takes on a visceral, jaw-dropping reality in Base, a drama about two base-jumpers riding the edge of life and death.
Base-jumping, if you’ve never heard of it, is leaping off a large, fixed object, such as a cliff or a skyscraper, and submitting yourself to the whim of the winds below, using winged suits to soar through the sky. As Toy Story taught us, though, man was not meant to fly, but rather fall in style, and it’s this gut-wrenching fact that JC (Alexander Polli) and his best friend, Chico (Carlos Pedro Briceño), have to comes to terms with. After a tragic death early on, what begins as an exhilarating showcase for astonishing stunts evolves into a moving tale of trying to chase the feeling of being alive.
Polli and Briceño, who are base-jumpers in real life, are not actors by trade, and that gradually becomes clear as the movie pushes into more emotional territory – a love triangle involving Ash (Julie Dray) swings between the faintly cliched and the frustratingly contrived. (The script, written by Tom Williams and director Richard Parry, doesn’t contain the most subtle dialogue.) But the story sparks to life the moment our characters near a jump, as the very real risks brings immediate, insurmountable stakes to the drama. (The fact that Polli died before this movie was released only reinforces the tragic feeling of peril.)
If the drama occasionally seems false, though, the actual base-jumping footage is anything but, and the spectacle of seeing these men fling themselves into the sky is unlike anything else you’ve seen on the big screen. Perhaps this movie would have been better served as a documentary about Polli, but as the men wear cameras that capture the whole sequence in first person (or from an unseen companion), every flight will have you holding your breath at the beauty and danger of it all. “When your life flashes before your eyes, make sure that you have plenty to watch,” Base tells us – and the knowledge that that these men are literally doing that as the world rushes past them carries an impact that’s impossible to shake.