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(2008) ** 1/2 Unrated
90 min. Sony Pictures Classics. Director: Mark D. Obenhaus. Cast: Doug Coombs, Seth Morrison, Peter Krause.

For extreme skiers, life on the slopes isn't exactly "live fast, die young," but it's close. Mark Obenhaus' doc about the mortally risky sport of big-mountain skiing will hold most interest for those already fascinated by its subject. Here are many of the sport's most prominent practioners—Bill Briggs, Anselme Baud and Patrick Vellencant, Glen Plake, Shane McConkey, Ingrid Backstrom, and Andrew McLean, among others—seen in spectacular action and heard discussing why they do what they do.

Obenhaus lays out a brief history of extreme skiing, from Briggs' legendary 1971 ski descent of the Grand Teton to the 2006 death of one of the film's featured skiers. Steep also highlights several of the most celebrated places for extreme skiingin British Columbia, Alaska, Iceland, and the High Alps—and goes out of its way to pay tribute to seminal ski film The Blizzard of AAHHH's (1988). Peter Krause narrates; along the way, we learn about infamous achievements and the unique personalities required to achieve them.

The specter of death, though recognized by the athletes, is effectively taken in stride. One notes, "The closer you come to dying, the more alive you feel." Uniformly, the skiers recount the best moments of their lives as being ones on the slopes. Obenhaus leaves it to the viewer to decide whether feeling like "a little Superman" is a high too dangerous to chase.

Those unswayed to the sport may still find a kind of fascination in the sport's driving philosophies: freedom from rules and limitations (such as those imposed in official ski resorts like Squaw Valley) and a hunger to live life to its fullest. "If there's no risk, there's no adventure," says Briggs, and Steep is enough to make one wonder if our less death-defying lives could use a little more of both.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround

Street date: 3/18/2008

Distributor: Sony Home Entertainment

Mark Obenhaus and skiers Ingrid Backstrom and Andrew McLean contribute a commentary track and a thirteen-minute "Q&A with Director Mark Obenhaus, and Skiers Ingrid Backstrom and Andrew McLean," shot at an AFI screening. Both are worthwhile, contributing in a more natural and candid way a sense of life as an extreme skier. The seventeen-minute "Shooting Steep" is a somehwat odd "photo montage," narrated by Obenhaus, that details the approach to shooting the film and the technical specs of the equipment involved as we see still shots taken from begind the movie cameras. A second montage, set to music, runs nineteen minutes as it flips through production and behind-the-scenes stills.

Hands down the disc's most valuable bonus feature is the complete "Interview with Doug Coombs," runnning seven minutes; viewers of the film will understand why this is a rare extra. Lastly, Sony includes previews for Persepolis, Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains, Saawariya, Across the Universe, The Jane Austen Book Club, Riding Giants, Lords of Dogtown, My Kid Could Paint That, The Natural—Director's Cut, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and the promo "Blu-Ray Disc is High Definition!".
Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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