1 - Life on the Limit (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner10/01/2014

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 111 mins

Well-made and impeccably illustrated Formula 1 documentary that offers an entertaining history for newcomers to the sport alonsgside a wealth of fascinating archive material and interviews for die-hard petrol-heads.

What's it all about?
Directed by Paul Crowder and narrated by Michael Fassbender, 1 - Life on the Limit is a British documentary about Formula 1 racing, focusing primarily on the men who risked (and lost) their lives during the sport's most dangerous period. The film begins with footage of the 1996 Melbourne Grand Prix, where British driver Martin Brundle walked away unscathed from a horrific crash; it then flashes back and tells the history and evolution of the sport more or less chronologically, noting all the safety-related changes that followed each fatal crash, up to and including Ayrton Senna, the last man to lose his life on the track.

The Good
The film was clearly something of a labour of love for director Paul Crowder and he has duly assembled a wealth of fascinating archive footage, including stills, TV reports, interviews and in-car camera race footage (there's a spectacular sequence shot from inside Senna's car as he zips round the track in Monaco, for example). He's also lined up a veritable who's who of talking heads that includes racing legends such as Jackie Stewart, Jacky Ickx, Emerson Fittipaldi, Damon Hill and Nikki Lauda and current stars like Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button alongside journalists, car designers, commentators and authors, as well as key figures such as Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley.

Fassbender's narration is informative without being intrusive, with the talking heads doing most of the work. The film is also impressively paced, taking what feels (to an F1 ignoramus) like a comprehensive trawl through the sport's history up until Senna's death in 1994 and encompassing famous rivalries such as Jackie Stewart vs Jacky Ickx and Nikki Lauda vs James Hunt (as showcased in Ron Howard's excellent Rush), as well as spending appropriate amounts of time profiling each of the key figures who lost their lives, most notably Jochen Rindt (there's a heart-breaking moment where his wife tells him she wishes he'd give up racing, shortly before his death) and Francois Cevert.

The Great
Needless to say, the film also includes several jaw-dropping race sequences as well as some truly horrific crash footage – as one of the drivers confesses, 'Everyone loves a shunt.' In addition, the film has a terrific soundtrack that feels appropriate to the rockstar lifestyle of the drivers in the 60s and 70s. Indeed, the only real criticism of the film is that it finishes too early, leaving no room for modern era rivalries and success stories.

Worth seeing?
1 – Life on the Limit is a hugely entertaining, superbly illustrated documentary that's a treat for petrol-heads and newcomers alike. It would also make a great triple bill with Rush and Senna. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 25/10/2014 13:39

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