A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Some of the best moments in "Downhill Racer" are moments during which nothing special seems to be happening. They're moments devoted to capturing the angle of a glance, the curve of a smile, an embarrassed silence. Together they form a portrait of a man that is so complete, and so tragic, that "Downhill Racer" becomes the best movie ever made about sports -- without really being about sports at all.
The champions in any field have got to be, to some degree, fanatics. To be the world's best skier, or swimmer, or chess player, you've got to overdevelop that area of your ability while ignoring almost everything else. This is the point we miss when we persist in describing champions as regular, all-round Joes. If they were, they wouldn't be champions.
This is the kind of man that "Downhill Racer" is about: David Chappellet, a member of the U.S. skiing team, who fully experiences his humanity only in the exhilaration of winning. The rest of the time, he's a strangely cut-off person, incapable of feeling anything very deeply, incapable of communicating with anyone, incapable of love, incapable (even) of being very interesting.
Robert Redford plays this person very well, even though it must have been difficult for Redford to contain his own personality within such a limited character. He plays a man who does nothing well except ski downhill -- and does that better than anyone.