It takes a horse less than four minutes to cross two miles of turf and win the prestigious Melbourne Cup. In 2002, everyone expects top jockey Damien Oliver (Stephen Curry) will be riding the winner, but there are doubts about his mount: the tempestuous gelding Media Puzzle, trained by Irishman Dermot Weld (Brendan Gleeson). Even Damien’s brother Jason (Daniel MacPherson), a fellow jockey, questions the wisdom of an untested foreign horse competing in Australia’s foremost thoroughbred race. Director Simon Wincer (Phar Lap, Free Willy) expertly captures the intricacies of this rarefied world: the time, effort and money exerted, and the interactions between humans and animals. When Damien gets a devastating reminder of the sport’s inherent danger, he’s seriously shaken, but this docudrama continues steadily on course. Wincer and co-screenwriter Eric O’Keefe are more interested in relating this true-life tale of grace under pressure than in really exploring the costs of horse racing.
Review by Serena Donadoni
Released on May 11, 2012
Originally appeared in Indiewire.