I Am Bolt Review

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A documentary following Usain Bolt as he trains for and competes in the 2016 Olympics, also looking at the key moments in his upbringing and career.

★★★★

Usain Bolt poses a pretty big question – we’re so used to the price of perfection being madness, or suffering, or sacrifices nobody else could make, that this gangly goofball being the best sprinter ever seems oddly unfair. Is there any darkness in that head of his, something he needs to run so fast to escape from?

The focus here is on giving the people what they want, and that’s the Bolt charm.

Not according to this slightly hagiographic portrait, which can occasionally feel suspiciously like a sponsor-approved product. He’s a world-class shagger by all accounts, for example, but even his regular girlfriend remains very much on the periphery. The focus here is on giving the people what they want, and that’s the Bolt charm – which is so magnetic, you forgive this professionally-done bio its one or two blind spots, and have to admire its makers for getting their skates on and delivering it so soon after Rio.

His childhood is dealt with speedily, and issues of what it might be like to jarringly emerge from poverty to global fame and mega-wealth aren’t raised at all – despite the weird visual of Bolt driving his gold Ferrari around Kingston. There are contrived-in-editing crises of confidence, but all Bolt needs is Justin Gatland to give a boisterous quote to the media and he’s off to the races.

And it’s in watching him train and run that this documentary comes alive. The coach is the no-nonsense and philosophical Glenn Mills, around whom even superstar Bolt becomes a little boy again. Here we do get hints of what it takes to win all those medals, Bolt training till his legs bleed and his veins look fit to burst. The HD Olympic footage works surprisingly well on the big screen, Bolt’s clear superiority on show far more than on your home setup, his body becoming a spectacle in its own right. There may not be much edge here, but in seeing so much joy in the body incarnate, Bolt can easily inspire you all over again.

Bolt’s golden era may be too recent and the sponsors too dominant for any real warts to be included, but his charm and sheer physical wonder make this a compelling watch regardless.