Auds anxious to know what it's like to ride in the Tour de France without actually crossing the Pyrenees with a vicious Charlie horse should look no further than "Hell on Wheels," an exhaustive but frequently uplifting record of the 2003 edition. Presence of Lance Armstrong should help this 35mm spectacular achieve a rollout to a wider audience.

Auds anxious to know what it’s like to ride in the Tour de France without actually crossing the Pyrenees with a vicious Charlie horse should look no further than “Hell on Wheels,” an exhaustive but frequently uplifting record of the 2003 edition. Presence of world-beater Lance Armstrong, seen extensively in final 15 minutes, should help this 35mm spectacular achieve a rollout to a wider audience.

“Cycling is the only sport that ennobles its audience,” says French scholar Serge Laget, who helps put the then-century-old event in perspective, with help from some nifty old clips. Most of Pepe Danquart’s exciting docu, however, focuses on the German team captained by Erik Zabel and Rolf Aldag, with emphasis on the grueling cross-country trek. Beautifully lensed pic is enlivened by a great variety of shots, from intense closeups to breathtaking aerial views. The crashes are pretty thrilling, too. At more than two hours, “Hell” runs a tad long. But then, so does the Tour de France.

Hell On Wheels

Germany

Production

A Quinte Film production, in association with Multimedia Film, Dschoint Ventschr Filmproduktion, in cooperation with ARTE GEIE, Schweiser Fernsehen, Idee Suisse, Westdeutscher Rundfunk. (International sales: Media Luna Entertainment, Cologne.) Produced by Mirjam Quinte. Directed, written by Pepe Danquart. Co-director, Werner Schweizer.

Crew

Camera (color), Michael Hammon, Wolfgang Thaler, Filip Zumbrunn; editor, Mona Brauer; music, Till Bronner. Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival, Oct. 9, 2005. Running time: 123 MIN.

With

Lance Armstrong, Erik Zabel, Jan Ullrich, Rolf Aldag, Andreas Kloden, Alexander Winokurow, Serge Laget.
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