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FEATURE: David Beckham Into the Unknown- was it any good?

David Beckham heads deep in to the Amazon on a custom Triumph
David Beckham heads deep in to the Amazon on a custom Triumph
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Beckham travelled to Brazil to find himself, but, did he succeed? MotorbikeTimes weighs in on the 'Brand Beckham' controversy

Watching David Beckham's documentary on his Brazil trip gave me a headache. On one hand, Beckham seems disarmingly normal and likeable for one of the world's most recognisable men. On the other, his positive spin on favela conditions in Rio made me want to slap his ideologically confusing tattoos off. Basically, I enjoyed watching it, but sort of hated myself for enjoying it.

Every other news outlet has reported on the irony of Beckham escaping to Brazil to avoid being in the public eye, and filming the experience to broadcast on the BBC, so I'm going to leave that particular aspect alone.

Similarly, everyone has jumped on Victoria Beckham's comment about David's hair frizzing up in the humidity, and her main advice to him before the trip to wear a hat all the time. Sam Wollaston at The Guardian, for example, wrote: "She [Victoria] is worried about him, though. Well, about his hair mostly, and what the humidity will do to it. Victoria has always avoided humid countries herself, for hair reasons."

I personally think Victoria is a bit more media savvy than these papers are giving her credit for and her grooming tips were given tongue-in-cheek, knowing that this is what people would expect of her. The full 90-minute programme feels like this. Gerard Gilbert at The Independent pretty much hit the nail on the head in his review, stating: "I might have sympathised more if I hadn't been left with the suspicion that 'David Beckham into the Unknown' was merely the next phase of his self-marketing strategy. Even when he takes time out to find himself, the world goes with him."

Beckham's skills don't stop at controlling a ball. He's well able to handle his large trail bike on the most difficult of Brazilian roads. It's obvious he enjoys being on the bike. When given a choice between getting a small plane to their final destination to meet the Yanomami tribe, or covering the 500km on a bike, David opts for the bike - although he does subsequently end up getting the plane.

The bike itself is pretty special, as one would expect for Golden Balls. It's a custom Triumph and according to the bike manufacturer's website it is "Part Bonneville, part Scrambler, part desert-sled, part something completely new, this aggressive black jungle special is another chapter in the story of one of history's most versatile motorcycles." It makes sense for Triumph, an iconic British brand, to team up with Team Beckham, another classic British brand.

The beauty of this documentary is its across-the-board appeal. As Hannah Gale at the Metro noted: "For every 'Sir Alex was like a dad to me' comment, there's Beckham whipping off his top and covering himself in motorbike grease. It's a win-win combination." David's discussion with eldest son Brooklyn at the beginning of the programme is downright touching, and bound to distract from the furore that erupted when it was announced last month that Brooklyn was working as a barista in a local coffee shop. The discovery prompted negative reactions across the board, with Oscar Rickett , writer at The Guardian declaring: "Celebrity offspring who sprinkle stardust on a proper job simply show the unbridgeable gap between the super-rich and the rest." Brooklyn comes across as a nice kid in the documentary, however, and the notes that he and his siblings hide in their dad's backpack, which he discovers upon arriving in Brazil, are about as sweet as a spoonful of saccharin found in one of Brooklyn's finest cups of coffee.

The male camaraderie and back-to-nature aspects of the program are good fun. Beckham indulges in the manliest of exploits, catching and filleting a fish, sleeping outdoors, and foregoing personal hygiene - something some of his sponsors must've been climbing the walls at. They needn't have worried though. Michael Hogan at The Telegraph captured what everyone was thinking while watching David Beckham make his way around without a stylist and groomer: "Even after a soap-free week in the wild, he was annoyingly easy on the eye." One can only assume that many a man-crush has been born. Victoria needn't have been concerned about the humidity.

One part of the documentary that I particularly enjoyed was Beckham's adaptation of the typical Brit trait of speaking English to the locals with a curious foreign accent attached, to make himself understood. He might look like a male model, but underneath it he's as awkward as the rest of us.

The big finale is David's group's meeting with the Yanomami tribe. It features some memorable moments, such as the footballer explaining what soccer is to a naked tribal elder who, it seems, has some golden balls of his own. Beckham and his three mates help to harvest the crops, and Beckham opens up to the camera: "Unfortunately it's very difficult in my life to have new friends," he says. "I live in a world where people want to be your friend to gain something."

This is David Beckham's life, but not as we know it - a strange duality of privilege and intense pressure. I enjoyed 'Into the Unknown' - certain aspects of it anyway. We got to see some very cool bikes ridden across tough terrain, and also a rare glimpse into the inner sanctum of the Beckham congolmerate. Mentally stimulating it wasn't, but I suppose it's time to give the guy a break. He is retired after all.

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