Two things are very apparent in “Retallack”. The first is that Tanner Hall is mending well after breaking both his legs in a bad crash at Steven’s Pass in May, 2009. He throws a couple of impressive big mountain tricks including a massive back flip worthy of Seth Morrison. Hall does not look to have lost any of his nerve as a result of his last accident either as he proves by launching from a helicopter 20 feet above the edge of a steep big mountain vertical and slaying it with skill and finesse. But the fact of the matter is Hall does not ski a whole lot in “Retallack”. You get a glimpse of him in the first half of the movie but it’s not really until the second half where he really shows up hitting a few kickers and dropping the few tricks just mentioned. You can take this a couple of ways: either he’s taking his time in ramping up his formidable skills back to peak levels and thereby transitioning carefully into Olympic athlete conditioning in time for Sochi in 2014 or he’s completely lost it because this is not the Tanner Hall we’re used to seeing in Tanner Hall movies. I have to figure it’s the former and not the latter but I’m guessing because Hall and I don’t hang out regularly and I can’t ask him. But I think the evidence is there for the slow recovery theory – those big mountain segments are real and Hall’s skiing is on point. Hall has said numerous times in interviews that the Olympics are on his radar. Success there will bring him to the attention of the bigger world outside the freeskiing scene. A gold medal will be a pension that most skiers will never see after devoting their youths to reaching the top. Plus, Hall is not stupid. He broke his legs not his head. He knows if he breaks anything more, the pipe at Sochi will be something he sees only on TV.
The second thing to note in “Retallack” is Josh Finbow’s arrival as a director. Serving a cinematographer on “”Like A Lion”, last year’s ski movie offering from Inspired Media, was a great warm up but nothing like what he’s delivered here for his bosses Eric Iberg and Hall himself. Finbow’s choice of shots rolls off the screen in a frictionless, elegant manner, everything unfolding so as to release the maximum amount of energy. First you get a head-cam shot as Ian Provo or John Spriggs step off a ridge and into the void before surfing a line of pillows, then comes a shot from below, down the hill and then another from a different angle. You find yourself losing your stomach often in a way that only the best sports action films can induce. He seals it all up by serving as editor as well and that helps hi-light Gary “Riga” Burke’s terrific original score. Watch the opening sequence as the Neil and Ian Provo tear shit up in powder so deep you need a snorkel – the shots flow and the beats hit and with that crystal snow – man – you’re probably watching one of the best powder sequences you’re going to see this year in any ski movie. You’ve got to love those GoPro cameras especially when you mount them on a pole and shoot from ahead of yourself. The footage is so exhilarating that it becomes torture to watch because remember, this is August when most of us are seeing “Retallack” for the first time and there’s no real snow anywhere in the northern hemisphere yet.
“Retallack”’s look is clean and pure. BC’s Selkirk Mountain wilderness looks gorgeous in every frame. The time-lapse shots transition nicely with the soundtrack into each segment. Aside from Karl The Gnarl’s beat poetry (he’s now the Allen Ginsburg of deep pow), there’s barely a word spoken on screen. As with Hall’s 2008 film “The Massive”, there’s are no title cards telling you who you’re watching and while it provides for that cleaner look to the movie overall, it’s still a frustrating omission. But once you figure out who’s wearing what it’s clear that “Retallack” really belongs to four of the riders: the Provo brothers (Neil – yellow-green jacket on the snowboard and Ian – on the skis with the purple and white coat), John Spriggs (orange coat with the black and white stripes and green camo pants) and Ben Moxham (white pants and brown jacket). Any way you look at it, they send it, kill it and stomp it in equal measures. This film has me stoked to ski- it’s already had me checking Retallack’s website to find out if I can work that into my schedule this year – and that, my friends, amounts to a big thumbs up. By Mark “The Attorney General” Quail