WORLD'S FASTEST INDIAN, THE
In the mid 60s (and in his own 60s), having spent decades streamlining and re-engineering his 1920s Indian motorcycle, New Zealander (Burt Munro) scrapes up the money to take his beloved No 35 from Invercargill to Bonneville Flats in Utah for Speed Week. Desperate to officially test the Indian on the world's fastest salt flats, Munro defies his failing heart, his rough and ready mechanical solutions and his amateur status to talk his way into the biggest, most acclaimed test of land speed - and his own biggest dream. His world land speed record in his category (streamlined motorbikes under 1000 cc) still stands today.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
We know the ending is triumphant, so it becomes critical how this story is told. Here is a ramshackle bachelor in his 60s, living in a garden shed in Invercargill, annoying neighbours with his revving noise and the dismay of the orderly, neatly lawned suburb. His stoic, down to earth nature is best exemplified when he is dropped by his crabby cabby at a seedy Hollywood hotel, where a transsexual motel clerk takes him under her/his wing. The out of towner Burt hardly flinches, taking things like this in his stride, just as he takes a heart complaint or a burning leg.
It's a great human interest story; in fact it's better as a human interest story than as a triumphal one about keeping your dreams alive. It's also a road movie in parts. There is so much to hang on to, there seem to be too many potential elements and not enough time to sink into any.
The film's best parts come late, after Burt has left Invercargill. But this shouldn't be so: we should have been involved and enthused earlier, as we were getting to know him. This is the film's weakest spot, which it barely overcomes.
Anthony Hopkins can act, and he can create character. His New Zealand accent is said to be spot on, and he does his best creating a persona that is never satisfactorily fleshed out.
Review by Louise Keller:
A spellbinding road movie about a man with a dream, The World's Fastest Indian tells not only a true story but introduces us to a priceless original. Burt Munro was a simple man who lived in the small New Zealand town of Invercargill. But there was nothing simple or ordinary about the dream he had to make his beloved 1920 classic Indian motorcycle not only roadworthy, but to break the speed records on the salt flats of Bonneville, Utah. Nor was there anything conventional about the way he achieved his goal. He believed danger was the spice of life and what made it all worthwhile.
Director Roger Donaldson knew Munro personally and was passionate to tell his story without compromise. Armed with the giant talents of Anthony Hopkins, the World's Fastest Indian engages from the outset. Together with Munro, we set out on his life-changing journey to Utah, meeting an eclectic mix of characters along the way. There's the Tina the transvestite in 'Hollyweird', Fernando the Mexican used car salesman, Jake the old tribal Indian, Ada who 'can always use a little cuddle', Rusty the county sheriff and the young soldier on leave from Vietnam. At each turn as he endears the world without even trying.
Armed with pills for his angina and single minded in his focus, Munro never lets issues like no parachute or no brakes deter him ('I'm not planning to stop'), and his unconventional methods (such as borrowing his next door neighbour's carving knife to remove tread from his tyres, and lifting his head up as he reaches high speeds to balance the unstable bike) are inspiring.
Donaldson's script is well paced and the tension builds as the stakes rise when Munro reaches Utah. When at last he has the opportunity to realise his goals ('the reward is in the doing of it'), we are willing him to succeed. We feel the thrill of driving with him at full throttle along the stark white salt flats that extend into forever, and the rewards are high. There are highs and lows and a superbly judged performance by Hopkins.
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ROGER DONALDSON INTERVIEW
WORLD'S FASTEST INDIAN, THE (PG)
(New Zealand/US, 2005)
CAST: Anthony Hopkins, Diana Ladd, Aaron Murphy, Annie White, Paul Rodriguez, Chris Willaims, Chris Lawford
PRODUCER: Roger Donaldson, Gary Hannam
DIRECTOR: Roger Donaldson
SCRIPT: Roger Donaldson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Gribble
EDITOR: John Gilbert
MUSIC: J. Peter Robinson
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Robert Gillies, J. Dennis Washington
RUNNING TIME: 127 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 6, 2006
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.