“Max? An excellent engine, powerful acceleration – some problem with the brakes.” That assessment of Max Mosley by ex-Ferrari racing director Marco Piccinini is among the best and most accurate of many pithy lines included in the new documentary film about the controversial former FIA president, who never did care to stop when he was in pursuit of something – or someone.
Do we need a feature-length film running to 1hr 32min on Max Mosley? Film maker Michael Shevloff, the man behind the excellent ‘1’ documentary on grand prix racing, certainly thought so. He says it took him years to convince Mosley. But once he had, the former barrister clearly embraced the concept as an opportunity to set the record straight – about pretty much every aspect of his colourful life.
‘Mosley: It’s Complicated’ includes interviews with other key figures in his story: Bernie Ecclestone, Flavio Briatore and even Hacked Off press privacy campaigner Hugh Grant. But at its essence, this is Mosley’s story in his own words. The film is expertly crafted, includes wonderful archive footage – of Mosley’s early life as well as his five decades in motor racing – and amounts to an attempt to control and change the narrative about a man who was left seething by the tabloid sex scandal sting in 2008 that, for many, has defined his life. As Mosley openly admits, it frustrated and angered him that an episode he viewed as no one’s business but his own undermined his life’s work, which apparently was centred around helping other people and saving lives – not antagonising F1 team boss and car executives. How noble. But that streak of altruism wasn’t always obvious.
The sex scandal cannot be avoided and, mirroring Mosley’s brazen refusal to be embarrassed by its revelations at the time, that’s where the film starts – before immediately switching to India where Mosley and acolyte David Ward are seen working on NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme) safety ratings to whip the country’s reticent car manufacturers into line. This is the real message of the film: how his dedication to holding car makers to account via the five-star rating system saved many thousands of lives. As the film’s melodramatic tagline puts it: ‘One life. It’s worth fighting for’.