Chasing Great can’t rise above feeling like a current affairs profile piece with great production values and access. This isn’t on the filmmakers, they – and the viewer – victims of the huge disparity between the mana of its subject and his associated successes versus how little Richie McCaw has to reveal about himself that we haven’t previously heard or seen on the field.
Part origin story, part recap of the final year of McCaw’s career prior to bowing out at the pinnacle of rugby union, Chasing Great traverses familiar ground to anyone with a passing awareness of the national game and its attendant media coverage. Gone are the days of the tour VHS and to some extent even the reliable age-old earner, the athlete’s biography, replaced with constant coverage through social, broadcast and print media that can’t help but dilute the impact of this documentary.
Gorgeous as they may be, stunning aerial photography and shots of McCaw’s mountainous Canterburian horizon don’t help to convey anything about the man himself, while uniquely extensive access to the sidelines and dressing rooms of key games offers more, but still doesn’t deliver major insights.
The impenetrable nature of McCaw’s personality will have aided him immensely on the field, and will do doubt serve him well as his sporting successes recede into the distance. It’s very telling, though, that he characterises the film’s most revealing display of emotion a mistake, and states his most awkward moment during filming to be the banal act of doing a crossword.
An enjoyable recap for sports fans though it may be, one can’t help walking away thinking that either the filmmakers didn’t get beneath his superhuman skin or, more likely, the amazingly gifted sportsman McCaw never had the winning formula to star in a documentary like this in the first place.
‘Chasing Great’ Movie Times