The Cup, A Grueling Sports Film (Film Review)

CUP posterart

Entering the film market the week after the running of the Kentucky Derby, The Cup, a true horseracing story, makes it’s bid for the sports fan base.  A true account of one of a first ever winners by a non-Australian horse in a race dominated by the continent’s best runners, this film works not only for racing enthusiasts but thrill seekers as well.  

A grueling horse racing event takes place every year in Australia probably only second to the running of the Kentucky Derby in The United States.  With all the fan fare, beautiful women dressed in showy bonnets, special events throughout the day and plenty of drinking and betting, the world watches the sporting event beyond the mass of local attendees.

Although made up of mostly locally owned and bred horses each year other countries have entered their thoroughbreds in a chance to be the first outsiders to claim The Melbourne Cup.  Dermot Weld (Brendan Gleeson), an Irish horse owner, decides to enter the 2002 race and takes no time in hiring multi-time winner of the Melbourne Cup Jockey Damien Oliver (Stephen Curry) to ride Weld’s spirited horse Media Puzzle.  A week before the race Damien’s older brother Ray, also a Jockey, gets killed in a freak accident during a race.  With this riding heavily on his mind and wearing Ray’s racing togs, Damien takes on the impossible.

Dermot Weld (Brendan Gleeson) in The Cup

The excitement of the racing in this film grows with each event.  The sport of kings, this race truly shows why with the rich putting their best horses on the line for a prize that’s elusive as the weather.  Taking his audience onto the track with some excellent photography, director Simon Wincer (Free Willy, Lonesome Dove, Phar Lap) treats us to the emotion, perseverance, hope and desires of athletes both human and animal.

The richest two-mile race in the world, only the best horses can deal with the pace and physical punishment.  Up to a limit of twenty-four horses stretch across the track at any given year and when the gatekeeper releases them it’s a thunder of huge 3-year-old horses doing what they were born to do, race to the finish.  Wincer captures this amazing event and makes The Cup worth the watch.

The story develops slowly and picks up speed after most of the character development has reach its limit and the drama takes over.  There are some proud moments that eventually dissolve into tragedy, greed overtakes sport and finally doubt turns into joy with the spectacular performance by Media Puzzle.

I like this film for the horse racing, but the performances by the actors lackluster.  They seem to be miming their roles, maybe in awe of the horses that are the real center of attraction in the film.  Although the film follows a true story, much of the dramatic prose seems forced and idealistic rather than poignant.

The Cup is unrated but does contain adult situations and violence involving a horse racing accident.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A good film for horse racing enthusiasts and thrill seekers. (C+)

Additional Film Information:

  • Cast: Stephen Curry, Daniel MacPherson, Andrew Curry and Brendan Gleeson
  • Directed by: Simon Wincer
  • MPAA Rating: Unrated, Contains Language, horseracing violence
  • Genre: Sports, Drama
  • Running Time: 1 hr 46 min
  • Opening Date: April 11, 2012
  • Distributed by: Myriad Pictures
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