‘Greatness Code’ review: This Apple TV+ sports docu-series takes a different track

Replete with visual effects and an intense score, the short episodes are a great motivator for these home-bound times

Our take-away from sports documentaries has evolved especially over the recent months. Before the lockdown, we used to lean into such content in order to know a sporting hero’s backstory so we can humanise them. But now, we watch them to uplift ourselves, stay motivated, and to re-prioritise different aspects of our health. Greatness Code, by Gotham Chopra, is a mini (and I mean mini) testament to that owing to the fact that each episode — dedicated to a given sportsperson — is under six minutes.

In its first season, the layout of sports diversity is fairly vanilla but most people who follow western sporting news would know American footballer Tom Brady, surfer Kelly Slater, swimmer Katy Ledecky, and legendary NBA champion Lebron James.

The sit-down confessional style brings focus to an important moment in these figures’ lives. We are not influenced by interviews from their partners, coaches or friends — but rather, we are given intimate and descriptive looks into a moment which was truly a turning point for them. And all these monologues are in greyscale, adding swathes of dramatism. Were the episodes longer, this visual choice would have gotten tiresome.

Most sports documentaries source ‘never before seen’ footage too but the winning footage comes in a more modern format: visual effects. Visual effects director Lauren Fisher has worked on 2018’s Tom Brady docu-series Tom vs Time. For Greatness Code, each episode has its own type of VFX of the player either scoring a goal, crossing the finish line or taking a dive.

The experience is layered with an intense score composed by Jesse Voccia, who pens the music for Bosch and documentary Fahrenheit 11/9. There are mixes of synths, drums, strings all contributing to the build-up conveyed by the person in the episode. Voccia is clearly mindful of when to also exclude the score altogether, an under-appreciated skill for composers.

If you watch ‘Greatness Code’ expecting a documentary experience, you might miss Gotham Chopra’s vision for the Apple TV+ original series. Not everyone will necessarily ‘get’ the gist of the show going in, but the show makes for a great byte-sized motivator. Such a premise can be expanded to lesser-known sports with other legends; I would love to see some of our cricketing legends share their greatness code, so to speak.

Greatness Code is  currently streaming on Apple TV+.

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