The rise of the England cricket team – and the price they paid – is explored in The Edge.
Director: Barney Douglas
Cast: Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen
Release date: 22nd July
Reviewer: Simon Brew
There’s a theory that suggests the best sports movies aren’t about sport. Sport is instead used as a Trojan horse to tell stories other than the one at the end. Documentary The Edge, which follows the rise of the England test cricket team in the very early 2010s, somehow manages to do both.
When we find the team, they’re languishing towards the bottom of the world test rankings, following a false dawn victory in The Ashes in 2005. Something needed to change, and in came Zimbabwean taskmaster Andy Flower as the test side’s new head coach. He brought with him an iron rod of discipline and a trip to a joyless looking training camp in a snow-filled German winter to try and achieve the given goal: to be the best test team in the world within two years. It’s little spoiler to suggest he enjoyed some success.
Featuring candid on-camera interviews with Flower himself, alongside players such as Kevin Pietersen, Jimmy Anderson, Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott and Stuart Broad, what you first of all get then is a souvenir of a time when English cricket hit a real purple patch. Unexpectedly, though, Barney Douglas’s film then asks the question: what price did the players pay? When you’re pushing yourself to be the very best, what is the ramification? As enjoyable as the first half of the movie is, it’s in its second half that it goes deeper and explores the impact of Flower’s approach, and in particular the price several players have to pay when it comes to their mental health. It’s not a straight case of heroes and villains, and Flower’s own interview is very three dimensional.
The film finds itself balancing a few strands, but does it reasonably successfully. Furthermore, Douglas tries to add a cinematic edge to the way his frames his interview subjects, even if one or two of the visual metaphors he employs feel a little on the nose. Still, this is a fascinating documentary, all the better for having the support and approval of those involved. It means the story can be contextualised with appropriate footage of the cricket itself, and set against the conversation the film goes on to have, it genuinely offers sport and something more.