PLOT: The life of Ayrton Senna; a Brazilian-born three-time F1 World Champion. The film follows Senna as he emerges from semi-pro Kart-racing, through his early races, his bitter rivalry with McLaren teammate Alain Prost, his status as a national hero in Brazil, to his tragic death at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at only thirty-four years old.
REVIEW: SENNA was one of the breakout documentary hits at the Sundance Film Festival this year, and while I wasnít able to catch it on the big-screen (the way SENNA truly deserves to be seen), I was able to finally catch up with it a few weeks ago on a DVD screener. Before I review SENNA, I have to acknowledge the fact that I know virtually nothing about Formula One racing. In fact, the only thing I know about it is the fact that it comes to Montreal every summer, and means that the bars stay open later than usual, and that you can drink beer on the streets. Also, jet-set Europeans come to town in their fancy cars, making for some interesting eye candy on the Main.
Being so ignorant about F1, I naturally didnít know who Ayrton Senna was before seeing this, but having been absolutely floored by this documentary, I doubt Iíll ever forget him.
Regardless of whether or not you love F1 racing, SENNA is a must-see. Itís the classic underdog sports tale we all know and love, with the added appeal of it being 100% real. Thanks to F1ís immense popularity, Sennaís exploits were meticulously documented, and we get stunning documentary footage of all his most popular races; including his victories, defeats, accidents, etc. Unique for a doc, there are no talking heads here, with the majority of the film unfolding through vintage footage, although director Asif Kapadia integrates some current audio interviews in order to give the film a modern, often foreboding (considering that weíre all too aware of the SENNAís tragic death) perspective, and it makes for a truly engaging documentary.
Most important is the fact that SENNA himself is a fascinating character. A child of privilege, Senna benefitted not only from his parentís immense wealth, but also from movie-star good looks, charisma, and fluency with languages. Yet, despite his unimaginable success, Senna stayed grounded, and considered himself a peopleís champion. He was adored by everyone in Brazil, especially the poor, to whom he donated most of his Grand Prix winnings (amounting to over $400 Million). We see Senna during his rise to fame, through the peak of his popularity, through a scandal (where fellow racer Prost claimed Senna was reckless) hat almost saw him barred from racing, to his eventual comeback. We see him grow from a somewhat arrogant young driver, to a grounded, thoughtful professional and folk hero, and heís a dynamic presence throughout.
SENNAís really a stunning piece of work, and one of the most exciting documentaries Iíve seen in years. For anyone whoís foolish enough to think that a documentary canít be as exciting as a fictional feature-film, SENNAís the movie to show them. Itís 100 percent pure adrenaline, and phenomenally entertaining.
|Extra Tidbit:||Best doc since EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP|