McLaren film review: a lifetime packed into 32 years
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Why was Senna's self-titled biopic so special?
In a sport defined by its fiercely tribal rivalries, so rare is it that something can be released and be unanimously loved. That was the magic of Senna.
It's easy to draw comparisons between the lives of Ayrton Senna and our own Bruce McLaren. Both defied their humble childhood, both dealt with internal conflict, and both left us in a blunt, numbingly abrupt fashion.
And in a way that makes it natural to compare McLaren's new biopic (simply titled McLaren) to Senna. But, while on paper the come with similar ingredients, the real life results are quite different.
As you would expect, McLaren touches on a number of Bruce's most significant moments — doing so with the aid of a variety of different characters from his journey. It's a long and colourful list, ranging from the energetic and vivid Mario Andretti, to Howden Ganley's characterful recollections, to Bruce's loving widow Patty.
And really, this is where the film shines. Listening to those close to McLaren recount each of their steps as he transferred from New Zealand to Europe is something I could do all day — because of the enthusiasm they all have for his legacy and for what they all managed to achieve.
Sadly a number of them, including Patty McLaren and Chris Amon, are no longer with us. Such is the nature of the film. Many of the interviewees look noticeably younger than they do today.
Directed by Roger Donaldson, it's no surprise that he's able to take viewers and immerse them in the 60s and 70s. Segments of McLaren look and feel period; perhaps a testement to Donaldson's work on the similarly dated World's Fastest Indian, which he also directed.
The recreations, filmed at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupo and Hampton Downs Motorsport Park in Waikato, are good examples of this. As is the soundtrack that ties It all together.
But, while the flow and feel of McLaren's tale is treated with care, things come to a close quicker than you would expect.
Our early screening was littered with 'motorsport industry people', and you could tell they were lapping up every precious line. As were my plus one and I. But, it was hard to shake the feeling that the film didn't quite succeed in illustrating the sheer scale of what McLaren accomplished, for the more casual viewers.
The audience is hurled from race event from race event. McLaren goes from being a bed-bound child to an adult in the blink of an eye. It felt like Donaldson was trying to cram as much as phyiscally possible into a 94-minute budget, in a film that would benefit from stopping every once in a while to linger on and appreciate the big stuff. Instead of being in such a hurry.
But, maybe that's the point of it — a film that shadows McLaren's life is naturally going to fly through life events and leap from one continent to the next, from the New Zealand Grand Prix to Formula 2 to Formula 1 to Le Mans to Can Am.
After all, that's exactly how McLaren lived for his 32 years.