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Ben Stokes: Phoenix from the Ashes review - Prime Video delivers an emotional and unflinching profile of the England captain
The England cricket captain lets the cameras in and opens up about his personal struggles and mental health issues off the field as well as his swashbuckling success on it.
At the very end of Ben Stokes: Phoenix from the Ashes, we see the England cricket captain watching back his interview with Hollywood director Sam Mendes.
Stokes' chat with cricket fanatic Mendes was originally designed to be the central focus for this film, but as their meeting coincided with the all-rounder's decision in July 2021 to take a step back from cricket after suffering a panic attack, the Oscar-winning director was forced to rethink his vision.
Thankfully, the Stokes we see at the end of the film is barely recognisable from the one we see struggling, mumbling and distant with Mendes. It would have been easy to edit around this, to reshoot the interview or spend more time focusing on Stokes’ career highs, but this film from Prime Video is unflinching and refreshingly candid.
He delivers a brutal assessment of the “suits” running cricket, who he feels let him down when he was accused of affray outside a Bristol nightclub in 2017, and vents understandable fury at The Sun newspaper for dragging up heartbreaking family stories from the distant past. Just like on the cricket field, Stokes never holds anything back.
The film pays tribute to Stokes’ father Gerard and it’s the moments where he’s filmed talking to his dad - who died in December 2020 - that get the closest to tapping into what really makes the cricketer tick. Hearing Gerard talk over footage of Stokes’ famous Headingly 2019 Ashes innings is a moving moment which captures the passion, drive and beauty of their relationship.
For cricket fans, there is little new in this documentary apart from a bit of stump mic sledging from the Aussies. But as an exploration of the pressures and expectations we put upon our sports stars, Phoenix from the Ashes reveals how even those heroes we consider ‘tough’ can find themselves spiralling out of control.
The contrast between the brutish Stokes we see on the pitch and the fragile human off the field is what makes this film worth watching, regardless of your interest in the sport.
How to watch Ben Stokes: Phoenix from the Ashes
Watch Ben Stokes: Phoenix from the Ashes on Prime Video from 26 August