Saturday, 25 June 2011


Fastest man on wheels.

Senna is an excellent film because it does all the things a great documentary should do. It takes a world that few are initiated with and many simply aren't interested in and makes it fascinating and tells the story of an incredible human being in a way that's fundamentally universal. You could argue that its a slight lionization, that the Ayrton Senna presented here is almost too mythical, too gifted and whose journey is so classically tragic, it makes you almost suspicious of it. But then you just have to remind your inner cynic that sometimes there just are people like that, and there exactly the kind of people whose story should be told.

Senna follows the career and life of the Brazilian formula one racer, but primarily focuses on the rivalry between him and Alain Prost which I think is both a positive and a negative, A positive in terms of the fact that it makes for gripping drama and seeing Prost and Senna's various moments of battle and sabotage makes for electrifying cinema, but at the same time it meant the film almost suffered in terms of portraying the man and more than that made Prost out to be too much of a two-dimensional villain. Something that felt a little beneath this mostly excellent film. Similarly engaging is the way it presents the world of formula one, the level of corruption and politics involved in the sport, and often the scenes of pre-game meetings with the drivers and the various members of F1 royalty are quite illuminating in the way we see this enforced hierarchy, in which everything seemed to work in favor of the brass' favorite drivers, to the point where it seems almost incredible that this kind of thing could have gone on so openly.

I think the main attribute Asif Kapadia's film has though is Senna himself, whose such an engaging, earnest presence. A man who just wanted to win, and did so in the face of seemingly every obstacle thrown in his path, you could almost watch a film entirely about him simply sat in a room talking, which is exactly what you want in this kind of film. But thankfully his story is so wonderfully epic and ultimately tragic that it makes great watching for anyone, and what's doubly impressive is that by not showing any modern interview footage, instead using audio clips rolling over archive footage. Talking heads never take us out of the narrative, or more importantly takes away from Senna himself. It's a wonderfully made documentary that's in places both innovative and electrifying. Its perhaps a little too simplistic in telling us who the good and bad guys are, but its certainly a minor complaint against a film that manages to feel so epic.

Rating: 7/10

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