Spanning the decade from his arrival in Formula One in the mid 80s, the film follows Ayrton Senna's struggles both on track against his nemesis, French World Champion Alain Prost, and off it, against the politics which infest the sport. Sublime, spiritual yet, on occasion, ruthless - Senna conquers and transcends Formula One to become a global superstar. Privately, he is humble, almost shy, and fiercely patriotic, donating millions to his native Brazil and contemplating a life beyond motor-racing. But as he reaches these heights, an unsolved malfunction send his car crashing and he is fatally injured, watched live on television by 300 million people. Years on, he is revered in Formula One as the greatest motor racing driver of all time - and in Brazil as something akin to a saint.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The Senna name is as glued to Formula 1 as Lauda, or Schumacher or indeed, Senna's arch rival, Alain Prost. Well, maybe not so much Prost, unless you are a Formula 1 aficionado. And if you are, this film is for you, especially if you are a Senna devotee. Here is a crunched down decade of his career told through footage of varying quality and interviews conducted during that decade, and a few more recently. Although why we have only audio recordings of recent interviews with his mother and sister is a mystery.
It seems a lopsided treatment of Senna; we never really get a glimpse of the man himself and his personal life, except through the prism of his obsessive devotion to racing. But then, maybe there isn't anything else to see.
The narrative of his career and its sudden, tragic ending, is like a classic story from mythology, where the hero overcomes obstacles and enmities, only to be cut down in his prime by cruel fate.
Apart from his public clashes with Prost, Senna also had trouble with the Formula 1 politics and its establishment, as personified by the sport's heavyweight, Jean-Marie Balestre, a Frenchman who favoured Prost whenever possible. If there is a baddie in this doco, it is him, at one fiery drivers' meeting declaring that 'the best decision is my decision'. Maybe he trained under de Gaulle ...
But Senna himself doesn't come off as pure and innocent as his fans might like to think, even though his faith in God was so strong he would ask God for his help and even believed at one stage that God had somehow sent him a message.
At the end, with his fatal crash a climax to the film, the filmmakers indulge in an elongated and sentimental series of clips showing grieving family, friends and heartbroken Brazilians who adored him. It's just a bit too much. But as I say, his fans will weep for him once again and revel in every close up of that boyish face.
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CAST: Documentary featuring Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Frank Williams, Ron Dennis, Viviana Senna, Neide Senna, Milton de Silva and others
PRODUCER: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner
DIRECTOR: Asif Kapadia
SCRIPT: Manish Pandey
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jake Polonsky
EDITOR: Chris King, Gregers Sall
MUSIC: Antonio Pinto (Samuel Ferrari, additional music)
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 11, 2011