23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
This is an intelligent, film-length documentary which has excellent access to Grand Prix racing drivers, team managers, engineers, medics and the big names of Formula One. In just under two hours, Life on the Limit documents and discusses how F1 has become safer in recent years. It’s absolutely ram-packed with racing footage – some of it familiar but also many previously unseen archive excerpts.
Inevitably, as the film focuses on the dangerous aspects of motor-racing, we’re shown dozens of high velocity crashes. In many of them the drivers were badly injured and even killed. It includes the heart-rending scene of one driver trapped inside a burning car while another desperately tries to save him, but fails because of inadequate trackside equipment. If that aspect of motor-racing repels you, then you definitely shouldn’t watch this.
However, Life on the Limit doesn’t glorify death or exploit the flinch-inducing footage. Instead it uses these examples to illustrate how the drivers’ movement and the F1 organisers gradually moved away from the ‘devil may care’ gentleman-racer free-for-all that initially existed and which relentlessly killed drivers and spectators every season. Using interviews with key figures, some retired and other still involved in F1, the film shows how that loss of life and injury became unacceptable and it explains much about the background to modern grand Prix competition. The film of drivers and mechanics hammering plainly ineffectual ‘safety barriers’ back together just prior to a race was a shocking eye-opener about just how offhand some circuits were about safety in the 1960s and 70s.
The extensive behind-the-scenes special feature interview with the makers shows that this documentary was a very long time in the making – which probably explains why I’d already seen a similar documentary which the BBC screened not so long ago, and which covers much of the same ground.
However, Life on the Limit includes more exclusive racing footage than the shorter BBC film. It also and unusually gives much credit to Bernie Eccleston and Max Mosley for their efforts in making F1 safer. We often hear about the drivers’ association and Jackie Stewart’s campaigning, and the accidents which scarred Niki Lauda and killed Ayrton Senna. This film reveals that the pivotal moment came when Eccleston secured the TV rights, and that the gradual commercialisation of F1 helped massively to make the sport safer.
Definitely a film which F1 fans will enjoy, and probably one which will attract casual viewers after watching the feature film, Rush. Of the two, I preferred Life on the Limit.
One jarring note: the film featured short interviews with Michael Schumacher and I was surprised not to see even a footnote about his (non-racing) accident.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
I am not a Formula 1 fan but I love history so this appealed to me for that reason. It starts at the Melbourne Grand Prix of 1996 where Martin Brundle had an horrific crash but survived almost unscathed - the car was completely totalled. Then it takes us back to the very beginning and we get a whistle stop tour - well it was always going to have speed involved - of the `Golden Era' of F1.
This is not just about the drivers either; we get to hear from family members like James Hunt's son and wives etc. Also we get the men behind the sport which has to include Bernie Eccelstone and Colin Chapman, the man behind Lotus. We go through the highs and lows, the developments that took speed further and the negligence of track owners and organisers as to the safety of the drivers and the spectators. The names of the participants read as a veritable who's who of the motor racing world. We have Nicki Lauda, Jackie Stewart, Michael Schumacher, Emmerson Fitipaldi and both Damon Hill and his father to name but a few.
There is oodles of archive footage as well as contemporary interviews and an awful lot of honesty about just how unprofessional some of the behind the scenes antics were. It all makes for fascinating stuff. Whilst a lot of aspects of F1 are covered the controversy around sponsorship and moreover tobacco sponsorship is never alluded to. Whilst that may never have been part of the remit, it would have been nice for the juxtaposition of asking for health and safety in the sport to be taken seriously whilst promoting a product with known health issues. Still this was a different age with very different values and the development of the cars is also fascinating, with wings etc all adding to the increased speeds. The all too frequent crashes are never shown in any way that could be called exploitative and you do get a genuine feeling of regret at the unnecessary loss of life that took place over the decades. I had very little expectations of this documentary but film maker Paul Crowder has done a rather fine job and this is a film I can easily recommend.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Covering similar ground but a much wider period as the BBC's excellent GRAND PRIX THE KILLER YEARS, a documentary, Paul Crowder's 1: Life on the Limit benefits from a much wider pool of archive footage and interviewees courtesy of the blessing of Bernie Ecclestone and the Formula One Association but delivers a much more superficial, unnuanced and unfocussed look at Formula One's evolution from a sport of almost gentlemen amateurs where every month there would be fatalities - sometimes spectators as well as drivers - to one where there hasn't been a death since 1994 (as long as you're only counting drivers and spectators). It takes a while to get an idea of where the film is even going, starting off with a half hearted potted history of the sport when the British were mocked by the all-conquering Italians as garage-istas before the advances in technology driven by teams like Lotus meant that the cars were going twice as fast on tracks that weren't safe at any speed finally gives it some momentum.
Unfortunately it's here that it becomes apparent that speed is more important than detail for Crowder: extracts are kept short, the editing fast (but not incomprehensible), interviews brief to keep things moving and sexy, ironically leaving it with more in common with the organisers and officials who were so cavalier about safety for so long and who regarded danger as one of the sport's big selling points - it's just too afraid of losing its audience's interest if it stops too long to consider the story it races through. The air of hero worship and authorised corporate history also makes itself felt by taking so much at face value: the organisers who resisted change are always a nameless `they,' legendary designers like Colin Chapman who many felt put performance before safety are mentioned in reverential tones without a word of criticism while there's not a word about the divisions in the Grand Prix Drivers' Association that hampered its effectiveness even while it campaigned for greater safety. Nor will you find any mention of the races the drivers successfully managed to cancel or relocate when the track owners refused to improve safety. As a result its depiction of a time when motor racing was really dangerous and sex was safe is history in trailer and EPK fashion, delivered in broad brush strokes, with the consistency of death that surrounded the drivers reduced to soundbites and spectacular crash footage inbetween namechecking the greats.
Some of which it does quite entertainingly, but without leaving much of a real emotional impact (Michael Fassbender's bored narration doesn't help in that respect either): of the many deaths it chronicles, only those of Jim Clark and François Cervert are given much weight. It does include some of the truly shocking footage of a visibly distraught David Purley trying and failing to rescue Roger Williamson from his burning car while marshals and bystanders just watch and do nothing and other drivers race by without stopping, but then it's off for another retelling of the Hunt-Lauda rivalry. Perhaps aware of the possibilities of piggybacking on the release of Rush [Blu-ray] or more likely because it's the most famous story in the history of the sport this gets more screentime than any other aspect of the film, though it does acknowledge that Lauda's decision to abandon the final race of the season while he was in the lead finally sent out the message that enough was enough. Yet even with the growing power that controlling the TV rights gave Bernie Ecclestone, there remained resistance to proper safety measures or even allowing a doctor on the track, adding to more thoroughly avoidable deaths until people finally got it through their heads that the question wasn't why did the drivers crash but why did they die? It's dealing with Ecclestone and Dr. Sid Watkins' insistence on proper medical facilities and protocols and safer design that the film is on it's surest ground, but only because it's one of the few times it isn't going off in all directions at once but concentrating on one (still fairly concise) point.
Nonetheless, there's still some sense of why the sport still has the same number of crashes it always had but without the fatalities, which is certainly an achievement worth celebrating - but one that could better served in a less star struck documentary that didn't put looking cool above looking deeper with a cool head.
While the US DVD and Blu-ray releases are devoid of extras, StudioCanal's UK release includes a trailer and interview with Crowder.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
First the bad points about this documentary on the development of F1 though from the 50s, to the present day. The narration by Michael Fassbender does not fit the subject and he sounds slightly bored with the whole thing. Also the program jumps about both in the subjects and timelines instead of offering a smooth progression of F1 developments through the ages.
This DVD does have some really goods points though such as fantastic archive footage and interviews with many former F1 drivers as well as those that supported them such as wives and mechanics. It also manages to document some of the history of F1 especially around safety and the drivers who have paid the ultimate price for the sport they love. There is also some focus on the season-long battle between Nikki Lauda and James Hunt in 1976 which is interesting to put into context following the excellent film "Rush."
So it is worth buying if you are an F1 fan for the archive footage and interviews but with a bit bit more focus and editing could have been even better still.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Before I say anything else about this DVD I just want to make it clear - this is not a History of F1. If you want a retrospective of Formula One from the 1950s to the present day, this is not it. This DVD is a history of the safety of the sport, how it became so dangerous and the fight to make it safe.
With that said, my Dad is a massive F1 fan and I was pretty much raised on the sport. I have vague memories of Nigel Mansell winning, I remember Senna, I clearly recall the battles between Schumacher and Hill in those final races of the '95 and '96 seasons, and I've watched a lot of documentaries about this sport.
This documentary is good at some things, great at others, but it also lets itself down occasionally. It starts with a brief history of the origins of F1 Grand Prix, mostly centering around the legendary Fangio. Then there are a couple of sections about Monaco and Monza, as the glamour and the passion of the sport. Personally, considering the rest of this documentary I'd rather have had different tracks, or more of them. Certainly more about the old Nurburgring wouldn't have gone amiss, especially why it was so dangerous and difficult to make safe, and I've always found Zandvoort interesting.
Then it reaches Jim Clarke and things turn dark. Formula 1 is a dangerous sport, but it's still shocking to hear the names of the many drivers who died, many of them well known and respected sportsmen. True, this is ground that's been explored before (a recent and excellent example was the BBC documentary the Killer Years), but what this documentary has over others is a wealth of extraordinary archive footage. There was stuff here my dad had never seen before, and he's been an F1 fan for fifty years.
Another good thing about this DVD is the range of interviewees. Max Mosely and Bernie Ecclestone were particularly interesting to listen to. I know all about Jackie Stewart's hard campaign for safety (and to be honest the hardships he faced aren't really addressed here), but I was less familiar with all the ways Bernie and Max truly transformed the sport. It was also interesting to find out just how Bernie came to own the TV rights, and the fight they had to get Professor Sid Watkins accepted at the tracks.
Yes, there's the now obligatory focus on the Hunt/Lauda battle (thanks, Rush), but actually it does have a role to play, because the last race of that season is what truly brought F1 to the attention of the world, through TV. That attention also brought the sport to a wider audience, who didn't want to watch people dying on a Sunday afternoon. So changes had to be made.
After that things get a little rushed and glossed over. We hear about Sid Watkins and the changes he made, we're told about the improvements in safety. Then comes Imola '94. Barricello in a coma during Friday testing, rookie Roland Ratzenburger dying on Saturday, then Senna in the race on Sunday. I remember that weekend, and I remember feeling sick over it all, despite being ten. I also remember the wealth of changes that were brought in afterwards.
And that's kind of where I feel this DVD falls short. Because after all the build up, all the battles, all the tragic deaths and the struggles to change, it reaches Senna, mumbles about changes, then shows the horrifying crash at the start of the '96 season, where Martin Brundell actually flipped in the air and landed upside down. But he walked away and got in the spare car to restart the race. As an example of how far F1 had come in terms of safety it's great, but that wasn't all they did. I'd have liked more about what they really did to ensure Imola didn't happen again. How they changed the tracks, (all those Senna chicanes) as well as the cars. I'd also have liked a mention of how they changed helmet safety after Massa's freak accident in 2009, and how they've more recently changed the cars (those ugly step noses) after the Grosjean smash that saw him ride up over Alonso's car in 2012.
F1 is still a dangerous sport, and they're still reacting to things to make it safer. They just don't wait until someone dies anymore. Personally, I think that's a pretty important distinction, and if they can interview Lewis Hamilton and Seb Vettel for this DVD, I think they could have mentioned the continuing evolution, and even explored it a little. There's also the small fact that although this has been released in 2014, it's already out of date since Vettel is now a four-time World Champion, not three.
So it's not perfect. Fans of the sport will enjoy the footage and the interviews, and there's plenty here that anyone other than a die-hard fan won't already know. It's not the definitive example of F1 documentaries, but it's still worth watching.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
This is a film which will be essential viewing for any fan of Grand Prix racing. It focuses upon the dangers of the sport, the quest to improve safety and upon some of the key moments which brought about those changes.
The film is made from an amazing array of archive footage sourced from official broadcasts as well as hand-held 'Super 8' clips and is narrated by actor Michael Fassbender. Some of the footage shocks - like the announcement and reaction to Jim Clark's death at Hockenheim - whilst David Purley's frantic (and vain) attempt to save Roger Williamson is almost impossible to watch - especially as so many other drivers carry-on past the scene of the accident whilst Purley becomes more and more exasperated with the lack of proper equipment and apparent ambivalence of others.
There are a vast amount of interviews with key figures - many of those who speak are true legends - for example Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi and Jackie Stewart. It is notable that these three were all most prominent in the 1970's - this is the era with which the film mainly deals. The 80's are passed-over very quickly - but then the aim of the film does not seek to tell the definitive story of Grand Prix Racing - that would take many films - but to look at the defining moments which brought about improvements in driver and crowd safety. Sadly, in 1994 there were two deaths in one weekend, which also features heavily in the story. There is some more recent footage showing some escapes which would have been impossible 30 years ago. The film is bookended by Martin Brundle's huge accident in Australia, 1996 and we see him - full of adrenaline, with just one purpose - seeking Doctor Sid Watkins' permission to re-start in the spare car...
Highlights include Senna's pole lap from onboard the McLaren in 1988 where you can almost see the nervous energy and 'rage to win' (as it was once described) in the body language of the car - and a short interview with Jim Clark. Bonus footage is fairly limited - the film trailer and an interesting 20 minute interview with the film director.
I would definitely recommend this film to anyone with an interest in the history of Grand Prix racing.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
As a big formula 1 fan I was keen to watch this documenary film, but I admit to being slightly underhwlemed by it.
The archive footage is very good indeed, and the "snippets" of achive interview are all very cleverly presented too. The focus of the film seems to be how f1 has evolved since the 50s through to now, but as other reviewers have commented - its seems to lack a clear focus on WHAT has changed.
Its inevitable that not all things could be covered within its 2hr run time, but the mix of safety / brief summary of one or two events over the period leaves the film lacking something. The BBC documentary "f1: the killer years" did a far better job of looking at safety developments in f1 in the 60s/early 70s than this film did, despite that being 45 min long. What I had hoped for in this film was something similar to that, but following the story through in to the late 70s/80s/90s in the extra 1hr 15min that this film has over "the killer years" - it did not.
Focus on some of the key events away from safety such as the 76 season and the oh too brief look at changes made by tv post 76 seem out of place here, (in fact that could be a whole documenty film on its own), and leave me wondering about what the specific point of this documentary was - is it a historical narrative? A safety narrative?
The producers lined up a vast array of f1 stars for interviews, but they have been edited down in such a way as to make them seem to skim over issues and the "snippets" are painfully short to allow / show further elaboration on the issues. The general skimming over of f1 since 1994 was shocking too - Hakkenen's crash in 96 not mentioned, The US GP tyregate not mentioned, etc etc.
I did enjoy this film, but only because i'm a huge f1 fan and enjoyed seeing the archive footage. I don't think this will appeal to the casual viewer in the way Rush or Senna did, and Fassbender's narrative is very, very dour and uninspring at best.
Overall, its OK for the f1 fan, but its not really for "joe public." It was ok to watch once, but to be honest I can't see me wanting to watch this again, let alone own it
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 September 2014
This is worth 5 stars. Michael Fassbender's narration is excellent. I do not like f1 normally but this oscar winning documentary takes the viewer through f1 from the black and white days to the colour days with great colour footage of the drivers at races and in relaxed situations. The colour footage of steve mcqueen and grace kelly at monaco was class and some great talks from the scotish steve mcqueen, Mr Jackie Stewart. It gives an insight into the heros of the past mixed with some stomack turning crashes and some quite emotional interviews. This is by far the best documentary that I have watched in 2014 and I would recommend it to you whether you are a F1 fan or just mildy interested. It is very very good!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 October 2014
Great film/documentary however would only say it is for F1 fans as some of the names would be unfamiliar to anyone who has only a passing interest in the sport. I am a motor sport fanatic so it ticked all the right boxes. The fatal and near fatal crashes coud have come across as voyeuristic but they were tastefully shown and captured the emotion of team members, fellow drivers and the crowd perfectly. At times it is emotional to watch when you realise so many lives were lost. I would recommend to any F1 fanatic, but to anyone who is just getting into the sport or just watches it when it is on, I would start with The Senna film and Rush first.
on 18 April 2015
After cramming a dozen of the most hoary, hackneyed cliches into its first sixty seconds, I thought uh-oh, here we go. After F1 received the Fisher Price treatment in RUSH, a film which did the sport no real justice at all, it's amateur hour again. Stand by for a 90-minute Sky Sports style montage: fast cars, girls, loud noises, blah blah.. All fast edits, flash camerawork, no authenticity, no substance.
But I was wrong. After the pomp and circumstance of the first minute, '1' slams to a halt, literally, as Martin Brundle's car rises and violently jackknifes through the air and into the Armco at Adelaide '96. Silence .. Surely he's got to be dead. But F1 fans know he's not. In a perfect scene-setting moment, Brundle's familiar voice cuts through the air, tells us he shouldn't be alive today, and we have our context.
And then we're launched back in time, into what turns out to be a journey through F1's horrific middle years, and how a passionate group of drivers and team owners struggled to reduce the death count in a sport which had all-too-often become - at its grisly height in the Seventies - the sporting equivalent of a snuff movie.
Motorsport fans love a good crash, but when a driver is burnt to death, or virtually sliced in half, or decapitated - all of which happen in '1'- it ceases to be entertaining. The film teaches you how Stewart, Fittipaldi and Lauda played their roles in making the sport safer, and how Bernie Ecclestone of all people perhaps made, with his insistence that Prof Sid Watkins (may he rest in peace) rule every race from a medical standpoint, the biggest contribution. Max Moseley, too. I hadn't appreciated all of this.
Nor did I know that Rindt died when he insisted on removing his own rear wing to make the car go faster. Or how much of a superstar Cevert had become before that stomach-churning crash at Watkins Glen which made his fellow drivers cry with the horror. Or indeed many other things, and I am a life-long fan of F1 since 1977, the year of Tom Pryce and Kyalami, although that insane, terrible and unforgettable moment isn't featured in the film.
'1' is wonderful. At times, if you're a hardcore, long-time fan, especially if you experienced the sport through the driver-killing Seventies like my brother Mark and I did, it might put a few tears in your eyes.
It gets compared to SENNA, which is a seminal documentary in any genre, never mind sports documentaries. But I'm not comparing the two. '1' has its place, and in my view it joins SENNA as the second great F1 film in recent years.
It doesn't go for controversy, although there is naturally some finger-pointing. If you're a circuit-owner from the 1970s, or a relative of Colin Chapman, you might not like what you see here. Jacky Ickx, too, is singled out as a reckless Neanderthal who ignored safety and went against the rest - although Ickx magnificently defends his case in a relaxed, rather charming interview, without appearing too self-satisfied.
In fact, Ickx's charismatic and likeable turn is suffused with the glow of a man who walked the tightrope blindfold, and didn't fall. The predominant vibe from the interviewees who were around when the others were dying so often ... Fittipaldi, Andretti, Ickx, Stewart, Surtees, and of course Lauda ... is that they are The Survivors. As Andretti says, he dodged the bullet.
That the bullets found so many of the greatest drivers who ever lived, is what gives '1' it's constant air of tragedy.
There is dread when a driver, such as Clark, Cevert or Rindt, receives the in-depth treatment, in the knowledge that the film makers are simply giving us the measure of men who, ultimately, would die horribly at the wheel of their car.
Some may find '1' ghoulish. I found it a fitting memorial to men both living and dead who are among my sporting heroes of all time.
A world-class line-up of interviewees, more or less everybody you'd want to hear from (except, perhaps, Prost), filmed and edited tastefully. Nobody outstays their welcome. It's a brisk film punctuated by invigorating music and the ear-shattering, primal noises of an F1 circuit. And yes, it sounds amazing on your home cinema.
The men who play their parts in the relative sanitisation of the modern-day sport are reduced to a few interviews early and late in the movie, but although that very sanitisation is clearly where '1' is headed, it also knows that that's not where the story or the entertainment truly lie.
Kudos to the film makers for not producing an F1 retrospective for the YouTube generation.
But, briefly, you're brought to the near-present day by a genius quip from the quick-witted Robert Kubica, near the end. Cue much laughter.
It's a film for me and my big brother, as we were there back in the day. Monza 1977, the year before Sid Watkins arrived, and Petersen died, we sat in that big long old stand among the Tifosi, and watched Andretti beat the six-wheel Tyrrells. We - like a million other men of a certain age - remember those days, obsessively following a dangerous sport in which anything could happen, and which has now become relatively predictable, sanitised and desperately, almost calamitously, commercial.
Maybe death is entertainment, after all. Perhaps that's what we all have to recognise. The Romans had their gladiators, and we had ours. But the Formula One gladiators who died, all died doing something they loved - right up to the moment of impact, the sport to which they had devoted their lives quickly and brutally sending them on their journey into the next one.