Senna Film Review

Universal Pictures DVD
Running Time 106 minutes

This extraordinary film documentary charts Aryton Senna`s career from his debut in European karting to that fateful day in 1994 at the San Marino Grand Prix. Extraordinary because, unlike documentaries made for TV which utilise reconstructions with actors, this film is entirely composed from archive footage of the actual events obtained from TV and film production companies worldwide, as well as private film from a number of sources including the Senna family. Even more unusual is the total lack of any narration, instead using only voice-over interviews with team owners, commentators, contemporary competitors and the like, purely to add depth to the story line as it progresses.

And don`t for a minute think this cut-and-carve approach makes for a disjointed presentation, because the final product is so cleverly done, and with such a wonderful natural flow, that the directors have created a remarkable film that holds your interest from the opening scene to the closing credits; a truly astounding achievement.

I genuinely believe you could give a budget large enough to comfortably bale out Europe from it`s current financial crisis to Steven Spielberg, and you still couldn`t get anywhere near the action, drama and plot portrayed in this remarkable true-life film.

Carrying a number of themes through the course of Senna`s story, from his arrival in F1 in 1984 and his amazing performance in the Monaco GP – when he took his not-so competitive Tolman from 13th place to finish second behind Alain Prost in atrocious conditions. To his subsequent battles with Prost, both driving for Lotus and afterwards as the two of them slugged it out as bitter team mates at McLaren. What comes across throughout is Senna`s prodigious talent and mastery of his sport, which is an absolute joy to watch.

This film is also a ‘warts and all’ look at Formula 1 in the early nineties and there are no punches pulled in the coverage of the intrigue and politics that a high profile, high finance sport inevitably generates. FIA President of the time, Jean-Marie Balestre, couldn`t be more like a controversial, mafia godfather type figure if he tried.

Apparent as the story unfolds is Senna`s natural humility and humanity which is a fairly rare trait in F1 drivers, especially those who come from wealthy backgrounds. Ayrton Senna gave untold millions to charity during his life and his sister, Viviane, continued his wishes by starting the Instituto Aryton Senna the year after his death and which has provided education for over 12 million underprivileged children since.

On May 1st 1994 the Senna family lost their son, Brazil lost a beloved national idol and F1 lost one of it`s greatest-ever drivers but, most pertinently, the world lost a very, very good man.

Treat yourself to a copy as soon as you can: just a word of caution – watch it on your own because this film is an emotional rollercoaster and, unless there`s something wrong with you, you`re going to well up. Probably more than once…

A cinematic gem, don`t miss it.



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