This is not a dramatisation of Ayrton Senna, it is more a documentary than a feature film as it is 100% true, uses real footage throughout, and contains voiceovers from various people who are seen throughout the movie from the world of motor sport and sports journalists too. I expect that hardcore Senna fans will have seen a lot of this before, via places such as YouTube but for someone like me, 98% of the footage was unseen and new, so that was good. Being that the footage mainly dates from the late 1980's to mid 1990's, it isn't the best quality but even on the large cinema screens, its more than watchable and looks very good on screen. Yes, it's grainy but it just adds to the time and authenticity of the piece, and I think it comes across very well. Some of the footage is better than others, but its just atmospheric, and I liked the unpredictability of it in that sense.
The documentary really aims to look at the man behind the racing driver name of Ayrton Senna that a lot of people know. We see Ayrton speak a lot about his religion and God, and how important it is to him to respect that and how much of a part that played in his life and his career. He was a deeply philosophical man, yet had the grit and determination to succeed whatever the cost in his job. However, the film does show a more "human" side to the driving machine that is Senna. A great example is when his car flips and lands him head-first in the gravel pit, serving as a stark reminder to Senna he is just as likely to get hurt as anyone else in the sport, but it takes him having a relatively serious accident to fully comprehend this fact. Senna's facial expressions speak a thousand words, and watching him, you can almost feel every emotion, his face gives everything away and that in turn adds a whole new level to the film - I've never seen Senna in this light before, and the movie really highlights what kind of man Senna was - kind-hearted, determined, giving (he gave a lot of money to charity at home in Brazil) but most of all ambitious and determined to succeed.
The rivalry between Senna and Prost takes up a lot of the early movie, mainly because that is what helped to shape Senna's career in Formula One. When he joined Maclaren and partnered Prost, everyone knew that both men desperately wanted to win the World Championship title again, but nobody could forsee just how far these men would go to fulfill their dreams. We see footage of both men speaking about each other, the effect this had not only on them, but the teams and the sport as a whole too. The vitriolic words that come from Prost about Senna are quite shocking but goes to show how deeply the men were entrenched in their dislike for each other and determination to out-do each other on the track. Senna, however, always seems careful never to completely bad-mouth, doing it in a more clever and roundabout than Prost delivers! As well as looking at this rivalry, the movie does take a look at the behind-the-scenes politics of Formula One, from the awful FIA director Jean-Marie Balestre and his shocking decisions regarding the disclipling of Senna, and other questionable areas behind the scenes at Formula One.
I don't normally mention a sound track when I am reviewing a film unless a particular song really moved me, but on this occasion I have to applaud the entire musical score. It is mainly composed by Antonio Pinto, someone I had not heard of until I googled his name for the purpose of this review, but the man is a genius when it comes to the soundtrack he has created for this movie. He captures the raw emotion, the excitement, the thrill of the race, and the tragedy of Senna's death in a few instrumental pieces of music that enhance every single scene they appear in. It was a joy to listen to this soundtrack accompany this film, and I certainly hope the film-makers look to release this fantastic musical score at some point as I am sure anyone who has seen this film will be interested in hearing it again and again.
The film goes through Senna's career at Formula One, and eventually hits on the fateful day on 1st May 1994, at Imola, where Senna is to race his final race and tragically end his life. There was something very odd about watching a clearly troubled man on-screen, with the audience knowing what is going to happen to him, yet he has no idea. Yet, I couldn't help but feel watching this that Senna did have a sense of foreboding about this race, and this just added to my unsettled feeling. I almost didn't want to watch but found myself glued to the screen, heart-beating fast. I'm not ashamed to say I shed a tear over this whole section of the movie, it's incredibly moving, and when you have spent almost 2 hours getting to know Ayrton Senna in a way you probably haven't before, the now infamous crash takes on a very different stance when watched in this context.. it feels incredibly sad and the entire cinema seemed on edge and moved by what they saw.
Something that spelt out to me the power this movie had was the credits. Usually, the moment the credits roll on a film , 99% of the audience is on its feet and rushing for the door. When the credits rolled for this film, no one moved. We all wanted to watch the repeated scenes from the film playing alongside the credits, and it took the lights eventually going up and the Vue advertisements beginning on the screen again for us to begin to vacate the cinema. The film definitely had an effect on us, and hours after watching it, I am still thinking about the things Senna said, and the turmoil he was going through at the Imola race weekend, and wishing he had decided not to race, as Frank Williams had fully expected him not to.
I cannot recommend this film highly enough, whether you are a motor sport fan or not. As I mentioned, I'm certainly not but I was glued to the screen for the duration, which is just over 2 hours long. The audience in my screen were laughing along at some of Senna's funnier moments which did come quite frequently, and one perfect scene involving Alain Prost walking in front of a Brazilian crowd after Senna's first home grand prix victory with the most perfect subtitling (I shan't spoil it for you here!). We all held our breath as the on-board camera on Senna's car shows us his last moments around the Imola track, and shed a tear at the moving funeral footage, his sister Vivianne clutching Senna's helmet being one of the most moving images of the lot. There isn't as much race footage as some may expect, instead focussing on interviews etc, but for me the balance was just right. This is a superb documentary, and for once, I don't mind admitting Jeremy Clarkson was 100% right when he branded this unmissable. Truly fantastic.