Long Way Up
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Charley Boorman
Creators: Ewan McGregor, Charley Boorman, Russ Malkin, David Alexanian
It is not everyday that a series takes you by surprise. Especially when it is a show about bikes and you have never before taken an interest in them. But once you let go of your preconceived notions and watch Long Way Up for what it is, you realise it is a wonderful story about friendship.
Actor Ewan McGregor and TV Presenter Charley Boorman had previously gone on similar journeys in Long Way Down and Long Way Round, but the friends eventually drifted apart when Ewan moved to Los Angeles to resume his film career. Until one day, he got a message that Charley was in a near-fatal bike accident. This brings the two closer and they decide to bring back the "good ol' days" with Long Way Up, a journey of 13,000 miles across 13 countries.
They travel from a small town of Ushuaia in the Southern tip or Argentina, through South America, Central America and Mexico, all the way to Los Angeles in California.
However, during the early preparation of this trip, Charley goes through a second accident, more dangerous than the first, with multiple injuries that could have even taken his life. This part, though shown in the passing, is very emotional. Ewan talks about realising what's important in life, but also about Charley's determination to get back on a bike as soon as possible.
The main challenge of their trip is not only the terrain, or Charley's health, but the fact that they are on this journey on fully electric bikes and vehicles. This proves to be extremely difficult as the journey progresses, with the team getting stuck in less than fortunate conditions with zero charge in their vehicles. They go through a lot of problems that would make great climax to action films, but since it's not the case, they have to freeze in minus degree temperatures, constantly miss their deadlines and be real people in a really difficult adventure.
It is heartening to see how many locals come to their rescue, from letting them take up all their power to charge their bikes to especially opening their hotels to accommodate the team. It's a bit difficult to say if that is the case because there is a movie star in their midst, or human beings are good in general. However, it is certain that there is an overwhelming sense of dependence with local people because of their electric vehicles.
The adverse conditions also make for great comedy, from Ewan talking about his father scolding him for not checking the climate of South America before going on a dangerous adventure to Charley thinking they will die in a haunted hotel on their first day of the journey. You cannot help but laugh. Their interaction can sometimes feel like bits from a sitcom, but it's just their easy camaraderie of years.
Long Way Up will not make you feel like an outsider at all. It is not technical. It is also not only about the two best friends. The entire team, including the director, producers, camera-persons get to truly be a part of the adventure.
The gorgeous landscapes should be enough to hook you in for the entire series. From glacier forests to arid deserts and grasslands, you feel like you are right there with them. You will also learn about different cultures from people they meet on their journey and it feels like an antidote, while we are all stuck inside our homes due to Covid-19.
Long Way Up is an ode to old friendships. It doesn't matter if you don't understand why people say 'may the force be with you' to Ewan McGregor when they meet him, or never watched anything Charley Boorman has been in. It doesn't matter if you don't know how to ride a bicycle. The show is a real delight to watch.
Long Way Up is an Apple TV original spanning 10 episodes, out of which the first four are available to stream.