Sunday, February 3, 2008

The World's Fastest Indian

"The World's Fastest Indian" (Roger Donaldson, 2005) A labor of love for Donaldson, who first did a documentary of the man in 1971, "The World's Fastest Indian" tells the story of New Zealander Burt Munro who fulfilled a dream of testing the 1920 Indian Spirit motorcycle he'd been tinkering with his entire life at the test track on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Everything seems to be against him: he's old, lives in a shack, has a pension and angina, but his basic subsistence-level, his spirit, energy and resourcefulness (and his not inconsiderable charm) are enough to get him to America during "Speed Week" in Utah. Recommended by FarmerScott, K. was a little underwhelmed by the prospect--"I'm not into "engine" movies," she said--but was charmed by it, and so rooting for the man, that any set-back was felt keenly. It helps that Anthony Hopkins plays Munro as a slightly-distracted charmer, who, when he goes off on a story or a philosophy turns away from his audience as if he's addressing the world, but takes things in great genial strides and an attitude that it can all be overcome. It's one of those "Based on a True Story" tales that actually is a true story, as the documentary that Donaldson originally wrote and directed is also provided on the DVD, and the real Munro's words and manner are displayed. It's a truly heart-warming, uplifting tale, made doubly so by its provable authenticity. It is easily Donaldson's best film, and a tragedy that so few people went to see it in a theater. It's always asked, "Why don't they make movies like they used to?" And the answer is--because people don't support them. "The World's Fastest Indian" is one of those that "got away."

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