Narrated by Michael Fassbender, 1: Life on the Limit is an action documentary that evokes the glamour, speed, danger and excitement of the golden age of Formula 1. In an era when the sport was terrifyingly dangerous, the drivers were revered as rock stars with charisma and raw talent, however many of them paid the ultimate price. Those who survived racing at this time became leaders, standing up to save lives in a sport that was stealing them at a tragic rate. Using rare and archival footage, 1: Life on the Limit features the largest list of F1 interviewees ever assembled.
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.
After watching Senna I looked for other films about F1. Life On The Limit is in some ways even better than Senna. Here you have a well documented history of, primarily, the history of the danger of F1. Coupled with the fight to improve safety. The achievements resulting from this fight make for a great and uplifting ending. The best F1 film so far? Well certainly the best I've seen.
Great documentary done with feeling by those who lived through the early days of F1. Humour tragedy in equal measures. Well worth a watch for any fan and gives a good flavour of the racing we have lost as well as the dramatic improvements in Safety.
Format: DVD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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.