Magnetic

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: Magnetic

Where You Can Stream It: Netflix

The Pitch: A film crew travels around the world documenting extreme sports junkies performing adrenaline-pumping feats, including skiing down a nearly-sheer mountain face, surfing massive waves, and more.

Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: As the United States continues to completely botch its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, tons of countries around the world have banned U.S. citizens from entering their borders. That makes international travel extremely difficult for us right now, but at least we can turn to the movies to whisk us away to some far-flung locales in an attempt to vicariously satisfy our sense of wanderlust. Not only does Magnetic visit some jaw-dropping locations, but it captures some gasp-inducing footage of athletes engaging in some incredible moments along the way.

I’m not a connoisseur of extreme sports films, so I can’t tell you how this fits into the context of that genre or how it compares to any similar movies of this type. But one of my biggest takeaways here was: man, these shots look cool. As someone who is constantly searching for intellectual stimulation in movies and bristles at the idea of “turning off my brain” when I watch something, I’ll admit it can be nice to…let’s call it relax my brain, veg out, and let drone photography and the athletes on display do all the work.

Not every segment is a slam dunk. One section featuring a pair of bikers seems almost laughably out of place compared with the rest of the sports being showcased here. A windsurfing segment feels repetitive and stale after a couple of minutes. And there’s also a whiff of privilege that permeates the whole movie, with only a few moments putting people of color in the center of the frame and the rest of the time spent following advantaged white guys who don’t seem aware that other folks must overcome significant societal and structural barriers just to participate in these sports. But the surfing and skiing footage, which takes up a majority of the run time, is pretty great, and while I never found myself invested in the journeys of these guys, I was consistently in awe of their physical prowess and audacity – especially one surfer who nearly dies, but essentially shakes it off and says he’s going to continue on. The film is a study of addiction, and the high these athletes get when they ride a mammoth wave or carve up the side of a steep mountain face is so strong that they’re willing to put everything on the line, again and again, to get the next taste.

For me, the film’s best segment is one of its last. That’s when the movie heads to New Zealand and follows a pair of speedflyers who paraglide down mountains at breakneck speeds. It’s awe-inspiring to watch them spinning and flipping their way down, sometimes nearly skimming the surface along the way, but it’s even more impressive to see the shots of where they begin those flights, seemingly thousands of feet up and floating out over some of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet.

Magnetic‘s narrative won’t rock your world, but if you want to bask in the glory of athleticism via some kick-ass slow motion and vicariously travel the world, you could certainly do worse.

Cool Posts From Around the Web: