Saturday, August 20, 2011

Movie Review: Senna (2010)

Everyone has loved this documentary, I knew I had to see it. I used to be into F1 when I was younger and Ayrton Senna was a big deal to me. Being a pariotic young Brit I wanted him to lose to our hero Nigel Mansell but I knew that to beat Senna was a big deal. When he died I was probably too young to pay any real attention as to the why's and how's, to me it was just a shocking second death in the same weekend in the same sport. Nevertheless the sport never felt the same to me and I drifted away from caring, watching this documentary showed me why things had to change.

Whilst it was not exactly unbiased in its coverage or comprehensive in its documenting of events for that matter, what we were presented with was a celebration of one man's natural talent and passion in pursuing that talent. We are taken on Ayrton's journey through the careful structuring of existing footage and audio interviews with key figures in his life. And in this way the film makers have crafted a wonderful and powerful documentary that touches on what it is to be human that is a must see for anyone human.

From the point of view of someone who lived through it, albeit from a distance and from the perspective of a very young boy, the film needed a touch more of the industry perspective; interviews with other drivers rather than just his family and friends for example and any documentary about Forumla 1 should really feature the most enthusiastic man I've ever heard tak about the subject, Mr Murray Walker.

Obviously on the face of it motor racing does not appeal to everyone, hence Leah staying home and writing an essay rather than accompanying me but this is so much more than that. We are introduced first and foremost to a wonderfully talented and extremely likable person who wore his heart on his sleave and his face gave away everything he felt. And his death is both terribly sad and touches you on a deeper level because of the thoughtful way they constructed the film.

Walking out of the screen I was physically and mentally drained from what I had just experienced. Knowing how his story ended was both a positive for the film makers in helping to build tension and a negative for me because that tension was almost unbearable as it approached the fateful moment.

And to the person in the cinema who laughed at every awful car crash, there is something very wrong with you.

Did you see this? Would a more unbiased viewpoint have increased your enjoyment? Any still meaning to see it? Your blahs are always appreciated.


  1. I really would like to see this movie...I've heard so many good things about it. And I don't really follow Formula 1. Good review!

  2. You know I loved it. I am yet to see it again though. Waiting to go with friends. It's a tragic story that rouses nearly every human emotion possible. Nice review Toby.

  3. I saw the trailer for this awhile ago and it didn't pique my interest because I had never heard of Senna and I don't care/know anything about racing. But then weeks later I kept seeing comments online about how SENNA is the best film of the year and everyone has to see it, and it took me some time to realize it was the same film! I imagine it must be a very well-constructed doc and he must be a fascinating subject to warrant this kind of acclaim, and it sounds emotionally affecting based on your review. Maybe I'll see it after all...

  4. There is an extended version on the Japanese BluRay with almost an hour of additional interview footage. It most notably includes some very extensive and candid words from Prost telling his side of the story. You should check that out if you get the opportunity.

  5. This just came out today where I live. I'll definitely make the effort to catch it before it leaves the theater, which will mostly likely be soon because docs never stay for a long time.

  6. I love the image of little baby Toby sitting watching racing on TV.


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  8. I wanted to see this, but it wasn't playing anywhere near me, so I'm once again foiled by living in small town middle America. Good review.

    Oh, while I'm thinking about it. Three weeks until my World in Film Blog-A-Thon. You asked for a reminder. I'll do another one the week before.

  9. I'm definitely gonna try and see this, as soon as it gets released here. The Tree of Life is getting released on Thursday over here, so we've got to go and see that since I'm unable to make it to NZFF this year :(

  10. Great documentary, especially how they managed to do it using only stock footage and no voiceover. Was on the edge of my seat several times. Great editing and one you shouldn't miss.

  11. stevee - thank you, do take the chance to see it, although i would say it's not essential to see it at the cinema.

    andy - let me know how a second viewing goes as i feel like i might have persuaded leah she should've gone with me.

    alex - it really is an incredible achievement. i'm sure others who have no interest in the subject matter have also loved it. i look forward to reading your thoughts.

    BT - i think i might at least rent it just for those extras.

    edgar - i hope you get the chance, it broke UK box office records for a documentary apparently and it's drawing power means it's been out here in perth for nearly a month i think.

    alan - i was actually surprised by how american-centric the footage/interviews were as i always got the impression that they only cared about american racing like NASCAR and INDY 500. i hope you get a chance to see it at some point. i'm sure dvd/bluray will be fine.

    tyler - it's making a lot of top 10 lists, more so than tree of life i think. which is interesting all on its own. i hope you make it to both. why aren't you able to get to NZFF?

    mfv - it's nostra right? it's the mark of a great documentary maker when they can craft something like this just from found footage. i'm so tired of staged recreations in documentaries.

  12. Probably the most moving and emotional documentary I have seen in a while. Loved it totally!!


    'He's Right up tight behind him...PUSHING HARD!!!' HAHAHA

  13. i may abbreviate you to SL what do you think? - you gonna see the blu ray that BT mentioned as well scott? watching f1 without murray walker was like watching pete samprass play tennis. yawn.

  14. It definitely holds up on a second viewing. Actually, it left an even deeper impression emotionally. It drew tears again. It's tragic, and the circumstances surrounding his death are extraordinary. The soundtrack is insane too!

  15. Andy - I don't recall the soundtrack, is it all just diegetic from the found footage or was there a score or something?

  16. There is a score too. The racing sounds/commentary, as well as the voice-over interviews, are great, but the score is also really impressive. Such a dynamic experience. The pace never lets up. It has heightened drama, amusing insights to his character and thrilling racing feats. I wish more people were seeing it. It's doing ok at Palace, but should be much better.

  17. incredible. it did it's job whilst going completely unnoticed. i will try to pay more attention when leah watches it with me.

    they're still taking group bookings for in fremantle i think. it's got a pretty good word of mouth. but for anyone to see it at the cinema is a success in 2011 i reckon.

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