Downhill: The Bill Johnson Story (Zeke Piestrup, 2010): USA

Reviewed by Ron Christianson viewed at the Santa Barbara Film Festival 2011

Downhill is the true story of the unlikely rise and the tragic fall of alpine skier, Bill Johnson. Bill was introduced to the sport not by interest, but due to a run in with the law just before his 18th birthday. He was given the option to spend some time in jail or attend a ski school, he chose skiing. Realizing his interest and natural ability, he pursued the sport passionately and made his competitive debut in 1983.

Six years later, at the age of 23, Bill Johnson entered into the European dominated downhill racing. Bill won his first competitive race at Wengen, Switzerland, making him the first American to win a World Cup downhill race. With this new found confidence and winning status he boldly announced on television that he would win the upcoming 84′ Winter Olympics.

The Austrian, Franz Klammer, dubbed Bill the “Nose Picker” due to his seemingly impossible claim. Bill won a total of four 1st place titles in 1984, including an Olympic Gold Medal. Because of knee and back injuries, Bill’s competitive edge diminished. By the end of the decade, Bill’s personal life began to crumble as well. The one time Olympic Champion suffered some devastating losses. His young son drowned, his marriage ended in divorce, and he ended up in financial ruin, living in a motor home.

After a long break from skiing, he attempted a comeback, training harder than he ever did. Even at this point in life he never lost his happy-go-lucky outlook. Everyone he came in contact with loved and admired his spirit and outlook on life. He was bound to win back his title and reunite with his wife and family. Bill had a passion for life that was obvious to everyone that knew him.

My favorite part of the movie was when Bill won the Olympic Gold Medal. I really liked the way it showed him reaching his full potential, and his outlook on life. I liked the plot of the movie, as it was very interesting and inspiring. I would rate this movie an 8/10 because of Bill’s spirit and love of life, and the way the movie portrayed his rise and fall. Bill was a fighter from beginning to end, to achieve any goal he went for.

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