When tragedy and triumph successfully combine, a stellar movie is born. Such is the case with “The Cup,” the dramatic and exciting 2011 offering, directed by Simon Wincer, who wrote the screenplay along with Eric O’Keefe. The film rousingly tells the true story of jockey Damien Oliver’s road to his 2002 victory in Australia’s Melbourne Cup, which culminates just a few days after the heartbreaking death of his brother. Inspiring and uplifting – the tears will flow copiously – “The Cup” will leave you feeling better about life than you did before you took your first bite of popcorn.
The movie, which details not only Oliver’s journey but that of his horse, Media Puzzle, is meant for lovers of the track along with fans of inspirational cinema. The Melbourne Cup is to Australians what the Kentucky Derby is to Americans – an all-important horse race that draws attention from far and wide. However, in the film, the horseracing action vies for attention with Damien Oliver’s tragic tale, beginning with the death of his father, jockey Ray Oliver, who took a fatal fall during a horse race, leaving his wife to raise their two sons – five-year-old Jason and three-year-old Damien – alone.
Jason (Daniel MacPherson), and Damien (a strong Stephen Curry in the lead) follow in Ray’s footsteps, with Damien showing the potential to shine. Ahead of the 2002 Melbourne Cup, Damien is still in search of the right horse while, unbeknownst to him, Irish trainer Dermot Weld (Brendan Gleeson) is trying to decide whether his prize horse, Media Puzzle, is ready to run again , having broken its pelvis in what should have been a career-ending spill. Damien, Dermot, and Media Puzzle find each other, but then big brother Jason falls from his horse in another race and ends up on life support. He succumbs to his injuries causing a grief-stricken Damien to face the race of his lifetime while deep in mourning.
The racing action that follows is beyond exciting, and it brings to life the atmosphere at a major horseracing competition – with all the suspense, tension and thrills intact. Even those previously not enamored of horseracing will feel their pulse racing and the desire will bloom to see a live race and perhaps to place a wager or two on a promising horse or jockey. Those who do get bitten by the bug will find horse betting odds by William Hill online, and they will discover how very easy it is to bet on the races and become part of the story.
The movie’s uplifting ending will leave you euphoric. The acting throughout the film is polished and professional; Brendan Gleeson in particular stands out as Media Puzzle’s conflicted trainer. The cinematography, especially during the horseracing scenes, is breathtaking, and though audiences might come for the pathos and drama, they will stay for the intense action and the outstanding photography. This come-from-behind story, with both horse and jockey beating the odds in so inspiring a way, is full of heart and passion, making for a stirring and, ultimately, upbeat cinematic experience.