by The Editor
FROM the crushing lows of injury and defeat to the highest highs of victory, this documentary delivers what no other Lions DVD has for 16 years - a winning series to savour. But what it also brings is the most moving, gut wrenching, emotionally charged record of a sporting event from behind the scenes that evokes a passion akin to that of General Maximus Decimus Meridius in the Ridley Scott epic Academy Award-winning Gladiator. Except in this film there are many generals who impart their wisdom to the young British & Irish Lions who will go down in history for generations as those that did...
Many a sporting documentary has been made, but possibly not one as impassioned as this. And the reason behind it may lie with the director, Ben Uttley. Yes you are right to make the connection, Uttley junior is the No. 2 son of the illustrious former England captain, triumphant Lions back rower of the successful 1974 tour of South Africa, as well as assistant Lions coach for the winning Australia Tour of 1989, Mr Roger Uttley OBE. A producer, and actor in such offerings as My Family, Skins and Spooks for television, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and Captain America: The First Avenger on the silver screen, Ben has made a spectacular directorial debut with Lions RAW.
Rugby Unplugged was privileged to get an early screener of this memorable film, and rather than squirrel it away and watch it in secret, a lucky few players from the editor’s own Thamesians RFC signed away their lives in a confidentiality agreement sworn to silence for a fortnight, to see the preview of this magnificent work in their Twickenham Green clubhouse on the big screen.
As night drew in on an Autumn evening, the boys charged their glasses and settled down for a mesmerising two hours of unforgettable memories that brought a tear to every eye in the room from pride, as well as belly-aching laughter at the likes of Paul “Bobby” Stridgeon overseeing initiation proceedings on the tour bus, threatening to offload a debutant Lion mid-journey in Oz, and Simon Zebo getting into strife in court, forced to embarrass himself publicly in a call to Munster coach, Rob Penney.
Maybe not representing their country nor illustrious institutions such as the British & Irish Lions, but rugby players the world over understand respect, the unwritten code of honour, the passion, and what it means to put your body on the line for your team week in week out. So this grass roots rugby club in the home of English rugby was the perfect guinea pig to gauge an honest reaction to yet another Lions DVD. And the verdict was that the finished article was nothing short of exceptional. From a collective queasiness at the sight of Geoff Parling’s ripped ear, to the applause at Alex Corbisiero’s legendary rapping; from the reverence shown as the Lions visited the Australian war memorial, to the elation of Graham “Wig” Rowntree brandishing the very same pen on film that the Ts gifted to the Rugby World Cup winner and Thamesians patron as guest of honour at the 50th Anniversary Ball, Lions RAW was a raging success.
The expertise with which Uttley and his 2-man crew handled the players in their production has been highly praised by the those who featured; without intruding or being obvious, the team delicately worked tirelessly to not miss a moment of the action, whether on a flight or the coach, in the changing rooms or on the beach, in preposterous humidity in Hong Kong or on the biggest stage of the three Test matches.
Being born into rugby royalty, and growing up surrounded by the best of the best in our beautiful game, Uttley brought a unique insight which has translated into a film which will not only be hailed as a masterpiece by rugby fans the world over, pushing the excellent 1997 Living With The Lions film into distant memory, but will be seen by thousands across the planet who have never watched a game, and despite this, will completely get it.
From the first squad-deciding meeting of the management at Syon Park in SW London in April, to the final celebrations on the night of Saturday 6th July at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney; from the first Lions brothers since the Hastings in 1989, to an historic father son partnership, Lions RAW captures it all.
Uttley has focussed on the reality of the momentous 2013 tour, kicking to touch the media frenzy that riddled the papers over irrelevant occurrences in the Northern Hemisphere. He shows off the Lions Tour at its best, the inspiration of the management as Papa Farrell instructed the team to “take them to the ****ing hurt arena!”, and Wig subtly advised “let’s go into their house and smash it up.”
Using state-of-the-art technology, slow motion cameras usually reserved for Hollywood blockbuster movies, skillfully placed stills, and an exhilarating score, Uttley has directed a pièce de résistance worthy of a gong or three. But enough about Roger’s youngest...we’ll get Up Close & Personal with him later.
They even managed to squeeze in an extra 75 minutes of sometimes hilarious, occasionally moving, always inspirational scenes into a second disc. From appalling dancing to rousing speeches, from diabolical jokes to kangaroo court, from Commander James Bond 007 himself, massive rugby fan Daniel Craig congratulating the winners with cases of champagne and celebrating with the Lions players, management, back room staff and everyone involved who gave themselves to creating a most spectacular tour to be remembered for generations, to an outstanding 10-match British & Irish Lions Tour, Lions RAW doesn’t miss a trick.
CAST: British & Irish Lions 2013, Qantas Wallabies, Barbarians, Western Force, Queensland Reds, Combined Country, NSW Waratahs, ACT Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels & Bill The Lion
DIRECTOR: Ben Uttley
RUNTIME: 208mins + 75mins extras
RELEASE DATE: 28 October 2013