Of all the sporting contests I’ve seen at the movies — bike races, boxing matches — I’m not sure there has ever been one more spectacular than the America’s Cup sailing final that comes early on in Carroll Ballard’s Wind. Ballard doesn’t transform sailing into an etherealized daydream. He captures the physical and intellectual excitement of the sport — the aggressive athleticism and split-second decision making that turn competitive sailing into refined warfare. In design, Wind could almost be a Tom Cruise rouser from the mid-’80s. A handsome hotshot (Matthew Modine) competes in the America’s Cup, commits a blunder that causes the U.S. team to lose (for the first time in history), and then wins the Cup back. But the exquisitely talented Ballard treats the plot as background; he has evolved a reflective style of visual storytelling that makes even routine events shimmer with feeling. Ballard both critiques and revels in the WASP cultishness of sailing — the Olympian boys’-club atmosphere, the aristocratic linkage of daring and grace. Wind sometimes dawdles, but it’s a sports movie with soul. B+

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