Review: ‘Hard Miles’

Matthew Modine Goes On The Bike Ride Of A Lifetime In This Inspirational True Story

Things don’t always turn out the way you planned and sometimes it may seem like the world is against you. That is the mindset that Greg Townsend (Matthew Modine) sees time and time again from his students in Hard Miles. Greg is a social worker and welding teacher at Rite of Passage’s Ridgeview Academy. Ridgeview is a juvenile correctional school in Colorado. Greg has been working there for decades, trying to get through to these kids. When it seems like the entire system is against them, Greg wants to be there, believing in them and advocating for them.

Greg likes to push himself and he tries to invoke that tough mindset on his students. One of the ways he challenges himself is through his Tour De Grand. A 762 mile bike ride from Colorado to the Grand Canyon. Coinciding with Greg’s Tour is a backpacking trip his colleague Haddie (Cynthia Kaye McWilliams) is going to take some of the students on. Skip Bowman (Leslie David Baker), the director of the academy, wants as much positive news coming out of Ridgeview as possible. Ridgeview is constantly in danger of losing funding and having their charter revoked. The backpacking trip is a perfect opportunity to get some positive press and social media coming from Ridgeview.

When Haddie injures herself, Skip breaks the news to Greg that he has to cancel the bike ride and take the kids on the backpacking trip. That’s when the lightbulb goes off – Greg doesn’t need to cancel his trip…as long as he takes the kids on it with him. What better way to instill lessons of perseverance and a sense of camaraderie than an almost 800 mile bike ride!? Before long Smink (Jackson Kelly), Woolbright (Jahking Guillory), Atencio (Damien Diaz), and Rice (Zachary T. Robbins) are saddled up and ready to go. A little donation from local bike shop owner Speedy (Sean Astin) and their adventure truly begins.

R.J. Daniel Hanna both directed and co wrote the film with Christian Sander. This is only the second feature length film that Hanna and Slater have directed and written. The two of them shine in Hard Miles. The script is the perfect blend of humor and heart, not dragging for a moment during the almost 2 hour runtime. The entire cast seems committed to bringing this incredible story to life on the big screen. Just as Greg’s real life peloton needs all parts to be strong, Hard Miles benefits from that same strength across the cast. Modine spearheads the effort, but the young cast around him rises to the challenge.

Hanna weaves in flashbacks, some so quick you could blink and miss it, but all carrying significant weight. We see character’s past traumas, the moments that shaped them into the people they are today. Hanna also uses the camera as an extension of the characters and their mindsets. Hungover one morning and struggling, we get an entirely blurry image that slowly takes shape. As characters are pushed to, and past their limits, the camera spins and becomes disoriented – pulling the audience into what is unfolding on screen. It is an incredibly successful tactic, a memorable technique that enhances the film.

Whenever a film is based on a true story, it adds that extra layer, that extra element, to it. Realizing that Townsend and his students actually embarked on this miraculous journey creates and additional aura to the movie. Greg Townsend was directly involved in the film serving as an on set consultant, further adding to the layer of realism. His contributions went beyond just the story, the bikes used in the film were welded by his Rite of Passage students. Hard Miles was filmed in the actual locations Greg and his students rode through. As Greg reminds his students, there is a big world out there. Hanna captures this sentiment with sweeping landscape shots throughout the film – showing the beauty and vastness of their journey. Hard Miles is an enjoyable and inspirational trip you don’t want to miss and is certainly worth a watch.

Hard Miles is in theaters now.