Senna (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner02/06/2011

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 104 mins

Impressively directed and brilliantly edited, this is an utterly riveting documentary that's by turns thrilling, awe-inspiring and deeply moving. A must-see for both racing fans and non-fans alike.

What's it all about?
Directed by Asif Kapadia, Senna charts the career of Brazilian Formula One legend Ayrton Senna, from his explosion onto the F1 scene in 1984 (when he came from 13th place to finish first in his sixth Formula One race at the Monaco Grand Prix) to his tragic death a decade later aged just 34, in an accident at Imola in San Marino. Alongside many of his most famous races, the film covers Senna's bitter rivalry with fellow driver Alain Prost, his three World Championship wins, his frequent clashes with the deeply political racing authorities (he would often win on the track but lose on a technicality, just as he did in 1984), his global superstar status and the effect of his success on his beloved native country.

Kapadia has assembled an astonishing amount of archive footage, to the point where the film plays out entirely in clips – either of the races themselves, Senna's many press interviews, backstage footage or home movies – with voiceovers drawn from specially recorded interviews with friends, family, managers, racing journalists and fellow drivers.

The Good
Senna is a genuinely fascinating subject - a charming, charismatic and fiercely articulate presence in front of the camera and a simply astonishing driver on the track. The behind-the-scenes footage (much of it never-before-seen) is utterly riveting, especially the sequences where he appears with Prost or clashes with the obviously biased French racing president, while the scenes of his reception in Brazil are extremely moving; it's also a surprisingly spiritual film, particularly when Senna talks about the importance of religion in his life and career.

The film is impeccably edited throughout and Kapadia maintains a cracking pace, aided by a terrific, pounding score from Antonio Pinto. The races themselves are incredibly thrilling too (particularly if you don't know what happens), thanks to a combination of breathless racing commentary and the use of on-board cameras that put you right in the vehicle.

The Great
Given Kapadia's background in drama (Senna is his first documentary), it's perhaps no surprise that the film is structured like a thrilling sports biopic. As such, the film is by turns inspirational, awe-inspiring, laugh-out-loud funny and, ultimately, deeply moving.

Worth seeing?
Whether you're a die-hard racing fan or a complete novice, Senna is a hugely enjoyable, utterly compelling and superbly made documentary about a genuinely fascinating character. It's also one of the best films of the year. Unmissable.

Film Trailer

Senna (12A)
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Content updated: 23/10/2017 19:50

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