Critic’s Choice: True-life adventure ‘Maiden’ is one of the year’s best films

Claire Warren, left, Tracy Edwards and Dawn Riley in the documentary "Maiden."
(Tracy Edwards / Sony Pictures Classics)

If you haven’t seen “Maiden” yet, you are missing out on one of the year’s best films. Period. End of story.

Edge-of-your-seat exciting and blessed with numerous unexpected and dramatically satisfying story lines, this is much more compelling than even its once-in-a-lifetime story line would indicate.

The focus is 1989’s first all-women crew to compete in the grueling Whitbread Round the World yacht race, at 32,000-plus miles the longest contest on Earth — and what a saga it turns out to be, filled with grit and daring in the face of conflict, fear and life-threatening situations.

What makes “Maiden” especially good is the candor and cooperation of the people involved, all speaking with the perspective of decades, including skipper Tracy Edwards, who talks about getting so angry with a crew member “I wanted to rip her throat out.” Documentaries don’t get much more intense, or more moving, than this one.