Saturday, August 13, 2011

"the best Formula One driver who ever lived"

"Senna" is a documentary with the pace of a thriller, a story of motors and machines that is beyond compelling because of the intensely human story it tells.

Brazil's Ayrton Senna was the boy genius of Formula One racing, winner of three world championships before dying in a crash in 1994 at age 34, a driver current and former Formula One racers recently voted the greatest who ever lived

But if all Senna could do was race, this wouldn't be much of a story. Though he could drive like the devil, Senna was a spiritual person who believed deeply and profoundly in a higher power. A philosophical mystic with a jewel thief's nerves and a poet's sensitivity, not to mention killer good looks, Senna was an altogether remarkable individual. And a deeply contradictory one.

On the one hand, Senna was a sensitive, articulate man who wore his heart on his racing sleeve, someone your own heart can't help but go out to as he tries to maintain a sense of decency and dignity in cut-throat surroundings. But Senna was also the fiercest competitor imaginable, someone who lived to win and never hesitated to push cars beyond their designed capabilities. Triumphing at Formula One, he tells one interviewer, is "something so strong, like a drug. Once you experience it, you search for it all the time."

More than anything, Senna was a driver who wouldn't play the game, a moral person in an immoral world who loathed the politics and the injustices he felt he saw all around him. It's not for nothing that "Senna" begins with the driver talking about his teenage years as a go-kart driver. "It was pure driving, pure racing," he says, looking back with a kind of longing. "There was no money, no politics, it was real racing."

(To read the complete review by Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Film Critic, click on the heading above.)

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