The World's Fastest Indian
The World's Fastest
Indian is a tiny bit manipulative, a little naïve, a bit broad and just
a hair corny. It is also an amazingly enjoyable film -- much more so
than most people will imagine when this sweet, quiet, small film makes it
into their multiplexes.
The film is a long-simmering
labor of love by director Roger Donaldson -- the Kiwi native who has made a
name in the States with films like No Way Out, Thirteen Days and
The Recruit. Donaldson had originally made a documentary on Burt
Munro, the subject of this film, in the early 70s. Over the years he
has always wanted to turn the story into a feature.
The World's Fastest
Indian is not only a love letter to its inspirational real life
character, it is also an ode to two countries (the United States and New
Zealand) and the basic goodness of human beings.
It almost seems like this
movie takes several genres -- the fish out of water, the road picture, the
inspirational sports story -- and whips them up into a satisfying puree.
The film is firmly anchored
by a wonderful performance by Anthony Hopkins as Burt Munro, a crotchety but
basically good man in his late 60s who traveled from his native land to the
United States during the age of Aquarius to try to set a world land speed record on a vintage (almost
40-years old even then) and retooled Indian motorcycle. The character
of Burt allows Hopkins to give in to some of his broader tendencies and
still feel 100% realistic. It's the best role Hopkins has had in
Even though it is a true
story it seems sometimes a little idealized, but that is okay, it works for
this story. We never know if this is exactly how it all happened to
Burt Munro or how Burt Munro would have us believe it happened, and again it
doesn't matter. Big subjects like the Vietnam war and transvestitism
are looked upon by Burt with constant good humor, removing any real
controversy from them. For example, in one scene Burt gives a ride to
a soldier out on leave, and he tells a story of dropping agent orange with a
certain wistful beauty -- instead of the horror or irony most films would
use. Of course we now know the dangers of what he was doing, but at
the time he was just a soldier in love who was proud of doing his duty as an
American. Burt doesn't judge him, so we don't either.
Even though it is in the
sixties we see no hippies, no dissent -- but that is because we are looking
at the time through Burt's eyes, not our own. Donaldson has refused to
give the movie a Hollywood gloss and the film is all the better for it's
determination to let this enjoyable, quirky little story speak for itself.
When Burt finally makes it
to the Utah Salt Flats to try to attain his dreams, there is a sense of
accomplishment, a sense of camaraderie that is all too rare in these days of
sport as business. All of the people who are there were only present
because of the love of competition. They all supported each other and
helped each other to succeed. Reminding the world of accomplishment
just for accomplishment's sake -- this may be the most amazing aspect of
this wonderfully offbeat drama. (1/06)
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Posted: January 13, 2006.