This stunning biopic of arguably Formula 1’s greatest champion is not your typically cheesy, excessively glorified Hollywood-style breeze through a subject’s life that revels in the highs and glosses over the lows.
Indeed, after 106 minutes watching the story of Ayrton Senna’s life and death (much of it told in his own words and via rare unseen footage), even the most hardened motor racing fan will be close to tears.
Asif Kapadia’s film is fully endorsed by the Senna and F1 families, which gave him access to some extraordinary behind-the-scenes footage from the Brazilian’s life. At all times he comes across as a fiercely determined ‘win at all costs’ competitor, but one who never ignored the human side of the sport and the fact that his love of it could see him making the ultimate sacrifice.
There are plenty of laughs — Senna’s encounters with the opposite sex always raising a smile — and plenty of injustices, not least his battles against his great rivals, FIA president Jean-Marie Balestre and of course Alain Prost. And all the action is seamlessly edited into a free-flowing narrative that immerses the viewer in the action.
There is no narration other than that of Senna himself, no graphics, no missing chunks of his racing career or twisted facts. Instead, there are just the stories we thought we already knew, now told with real fly-on-the-wall footage from driver briefings and pit lane encounters that reveal how little we really knew about Formula 1’s politics and Senna’s motivations.
Perhaps it’s best described as one of the best films you’ll ever see, with the worst ending you’ll ever see.