Retro Review: World Fastest Indian

When I heard the name of this film the first thing that came to mind was that Disney film film from the 1970s called “The World’s Fastest Athlete”.

I was not familiar with the life and legacy of Burt Munro and that there was a classic motorcycle called an Indian.

New Zealand born Burt Munro (Anthony Hopkins) has an obsession.

He has dedicated his life to making his motorcycle go faster and faster and to finely craft the bike in his own design.

He lives in a shed with his motorcycle parts and his obsession surrounding him. His property is a disaster as it is over run with weeds and drives his neighbors insane.

Munro’s dream is to take his finely crafted motorcycle to the infamous Salt Flats in Bonneville, Utah. There he can finely see what his machine can actually do and how fast she can really go.

Most of this film is a road movie as bumbling “fish-out-of-water” Munro makes his way across America during the late 1960s. Munro is such an innocent and Hopkins delivers a wonderful and enduring performance as the film’s central character.

To the audience’s untrained eye, Munro’s motorcycle looks like it was probably conceived by a crazy man with a “tinker toy” obsession. It hardly looks or feels like a motorcycle. But for some reason it’s a miracle on wheels.

The other performances in the film are mainly just cameos along Munro’s journey.

We meet all sorts of characters from a cross-dressing receptionist to a lonely widow (Diane Ladd) to an impressionable Vietnam vet.

The film is about the journey and what it took this unique man to fulfill his dream.

Writer-Director Roger Donaldson (Thirteen Days) knows what he wanted from this film and gets it in every way.

I have to put Donaldson in the same category as another director I admire Phillip Noyce.

Both of these men are such under-rated directors and I am always fascinated to what films they are planning next. I hope a lot of great things from both directors.

The flaw of this film is its length. There are a lot of points and minor scenes that could have been scrapped in this film but it was like Donaldson was trying to squeeze every single great Burt Munro moment into the picture. Don’t get me wrong I liked the fact we take this journey and all its quirky pit-stops but time wise it’s sometimes hard to justify.

The film is held together by the sure magic of Hopkins and the drive to see this dream fulfilled. It is a fun quirky film that is sure to please young and old, motorcycle enthusiast or not.

(4 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer

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