I have not always been a history buff, but often a film will inspire me to do a little research and take a look back at a key point in time. To this end, I have learned most of what I know about one of my favorite historic events from the HBO mini-series about the the Apollo space program. Up until today, I was not aware that a man by the name of Burt Munro ever existed. But thanks to the wonderfully crafted film, The World's Fastest Indian, starring Anthony Hopkins, I am now well aware of an underdog story like no other.
In the 1960s, a man by the name of Burt Munro lived in New Zealand. His obsession, cultivated over a 25-year period, was the rebuilding of a 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle into a machine capable of speeds well over 200 mph. His dream was to take the bike all the way to the other side of the world where he would make a run at history on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. His story, while not widely known by most, is one of resourcefulness, creativity, and an irrepressible spirit and drive that embodies what it is to be a "Kiwi" from Down Under.
The film The World's Fastest Indian tells the story of Burt Munro, with Hopkins taking the lead role. And what a portrayal it is. It is no secret that people love an underdog story, but this film is far more than your average tale of overcoming obstacles. The story is completely endearing, led by a charming and magical performance from Hopkins. As he goes through his journey, the dynamic relationships that are developed along the way between Munro and the various characters who help him along are beautifully crafted, making the character easy to fall in love with and get behind. Hopkins is almost effortless in building an emotional connection between the audience and his character. It makes this film both fun to watch and impossible to look away from.
The film itself is no slouch. Writer/Director Roger Donaldson delivers a well-crafted flick in which every element brings us closer to the main character, making the accomplishment of Munro's land speed record a suspenseful experience even though we know it's coming. I not only loved the performance from Hopkins, but I was drawn constantly to the other characters whose smaller parts were obviously important to the filmmaker, else such attention would not have been paid to them. Whether it is the pot-smoking used car salesman, the transvestite hotel clerk, or the little neighbor boy in New Zealand, the performances were dead-on and this wonderful story was thus enhanced.
The only downside to the movie is the very anti-climactic ending. Don't worry, I am not here to spoil it for you, but I was rather disappointed that all the tension build-up during the last half of the film was almost put to waste. I can't complain too much, though, as the film is based on a true story and that is how real life goes. Anti-climactic or not, there is plenty to keep any moviegoer interested in this DVD, including great sound and above-par visuals. Most notably, the scenes in which Munro is racing through the salt on his Indian are shot beautifully in the first-person perspective, so much so that you get the feeling you really are traveling at 200 mph. During these scenes, the 5.1 Dolby Digital sound mix really kicks in for added effect. Overall, the feel of the film is done well, almost as if it were intentional.
In the end, I can't say enough about Hopkins' performance, as he lights up the screen with just the right mix of quirkiness and charm to create one of the most lovable unsung heroes in a long time. The film is carefully crafted and certainly a great feel-good experience. I would highly recommend this film to anyone who loves a good underdog story or to anyone who just loves movies that make you feel great when the credits roll.
A wonderful way to spend 127 minutes of your day. Anthony Hopkins delivers a magical and endearing performance.
Release Date: June 13, 2006