B.A.S.E., at first glance, was the kind of film that I thought I would absolutely hate. Two daredevil best friends who do proximity flying all the time, refer to each other as ‘bro’, ‘found footage’ shot from a GoPro and of course, pants-wettingly terrifying shots of jumps from high points.
But B.A.S.E. surprised me. Once you get past the initial introductions and get used to watching the action play out in found footage, tragedy strikes. Real life wingsuit pilot and YouTube sensation Alexander Polli died just last year in a gliding accident, but in B.A.S.E., he is instead the survivor of a flight gone wrong and spirals into a dark descent of grief. Director Richard Parry has managed to sensitively capture this process of grief Polli (playing a character named JC) goes through following the death, a wild descent into reckless activity as he melds fiction with found footage, and the film disarmed my initial dislike with a deft hand and made me feel for the death of this man we hardly knew.
Told through Polli’s voice, one feels the hurt and pain reverberate through each video shown, and for this film in particular, the medium feels more than appropriate, a nostalgia tunnel through memories recorded on film in first person POV shots. Smiles become bittersweet reminders of the past and give way to sobs in the present. The most cliche of lines feel like a lifebuoy in the sea of grief that pours forth from this film, and the camera becomes a tool for the healing process as we watch Polli do jump after jump with increasingly wilder abandon. All of these jumps are of course, real, and we live vicariously through him as we watch him leap higher and faster each time, the speed and thrill of the fall acting as an alternative form of escapism to make him forget.
Beyond the emotional qualities of B.A.S.E. jumping, one wonders deeply about the Thanatosian death drive that seems to code the jumpers’ mentality – the risk of death is always present, always looming, yet it never quite occurs to them until it’s too late. As the screen fades to black and the message of living each day to the fullest plays out, there’s an incredible poignant, sudden appreciation for the way these men lived their lives – as they wanted, rock stars in their own right and feeling every moment as they defied gravity each time. B.A.S.E. is a film that’s likely to surprise you as much as it surprised me with its emotional edge lying in wait for viewers, and will move you with its familiar tale of grief and moving on.
Base is released in UK Cinemas from 27th October and available worldwide on iTunes and On Demand from 6th November.