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Wick's Review

Created Aug 28, 2011 04:10PM PST • Edited Feb 13, 2019 10:41PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Perfect 5.0

    You needn’t be a racing fan to appreciate this cinéma vérité biography of superstar Formula One champion Ayrton Senna. An appreciation for bravura cinema, natural genius or Eurostyle glamour are other appetites the movie satisfies.

    Senna draws from copious footage of the handsome young racer’s life and career – his teen stardom in Brazil, his astonishing splash on the world stage of Formula One, his controversial run of dominance atop that über glamorous sport and his tragically unnecessary death at age 34.

    Boiled into a tight hour and a half, the movie has the narrative pace of scripted drama, complete with relationships gone bad, an epic rivalry, even a shocking ending. That last surprises the most, given that his death is a given.

    Documentaries don’t last long in theaters. While Senna will be treasured at home someday, it’s worth seeking out the biggest screen possible now. I was fortunate to see it from row 4 of Camera 7, where the 20’ tall screen threatened to overwhelm. However, the magnificent visuals of Senna’s racing scenes – especially the CarCam as Ayrton screams around racecourses – reward the intensity. Wow.

  3. Perfect 5.0

    Ayrton Senna was an ultimate live fast, die young, leave a beautiful image superstar. Er, that’s not how it goes? That’s how he did it. He looked like a Greek god, was a genius with a race car, and became a national hero. National hero? Millions of poor Brazilian kids have been educated due to his foundation, while four million people lined the streets of Sao Paulo for his funeral.

    He even had a supercool name, pronounced Airton by his rival and iAirton by his parents.

    Alain Prost, the diminutive Frenchman,1 makes a terrific foil for the younger Senna. Uneasy teammates at first, the movie shows them becoming hated rivals. Classic.

    Then there are the gorgeous models and TV personalities that Senna charmed as a superstar during the 80s and 90s, often on camera. The movie includes delightful clips of an impish Ayrton with besotted beauties from Japan, Brazil and Monaco. The guy had it all.

    1 It seems all F1 drivers are pocketsized.

  4. Male Stars Perfect 5.0
  5. Female Stars Perfect 5.0
  6. Female Costars Perfect 5.0
  7. Male Costars Perfect 5.0
  8. Perfect 5.0

    The film captures Ayrton Senna as the apotheosis of Industrial Man, extravagantly rewarded for his skill in handling an outrageously powerful automobile along with the global media celebrity that came with the position. Future historians will view Senna as a perfect lens into late 20th Century civilization.

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0

    Asif Kapadia deftly crafts a seamless narrative from real world footage, sequencing in TV outtakes with behind-the-scenes vignettes. Bravo!

  10. Play Perfect 5.0

    All real dialogue, the documentary captures several whoppers. Most striking is FISA boss Jean-Marie Balestre’s dominating statements to the drivers that what he says, goes. Executive decisions are rarely stated this baldly.

  11. Music Great 4.0
  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0

    The astonishing visuals span the large and small. Amongst the former is Senna’s sixth-gear only win at his hometown Brazilian Grand Prix.

    Amongst the latter is a furtive shot of Princess Stéphanie of Monaco ogling Ayrton after one of his recordbreaking six Monaco Grand Prix victories.

  13. Content
  14. Risqué 1.6
  15. Sex Innocent 1.4
  16. Violence Fierce 1.8
  17. Rudeness Polite 1.5
  18. Natural 1.0

    “The best driver who ever lived,” declared legendary driver Niki Lauda about Ayrton Senna. Who can argue with that. No one was better. Not Alain Prost, nor Nigel Mansell nor Lauda himself. Michael Schumacher perhaps, but we’ll never know for sure. Bernie Ecclestone, the King of F1, said “Ayrton was, and still is, the best Formula 1 driver I’ve ever seen.”1 Case closed.

    Amongst Senna’s accomplishments:2

    • Three-time Formula One world champion
    • He joined Alain Prost at McLaren-Honda in ’88. Between them, they won all but one of the sixteen Grands Prix that year and Senna his first World Championship.
    • He was the “rain master,” winning an astonishing 60% of wet races. This short video proves it.
    • He holds the record for most victories at the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix – six – and is the third most successful driver of all time in terms of race wins.

    He died at 34. Imagine if he’d lived.

    1 Source: History and Legends of Grand Prix Racing

    2 Source: Wikipedia

  19. Circumstantial Natural 1.0
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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