This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 4th December 2011
Hopefully this year’s brilliant TT3D: Closer to the Edge has whetted the appetite of fans of documentary, motorcycle racing and extensive use of riders’ eye camerawork, because there are further thrills to be had watching Fastest.
Director Mark Neale’s follow-up to his 2003 film Faster follows the superstars of the MotoGP World Championships in 2010 and 2011. Our heroes are the good-natured daredevil Valentino Rossi and his team-mate and rival, the more circumspect Jorge Lorenzo. Although the portraits are not as intimate as with Guy Martin in TT3D, the GP riders have charm in spades and plenty to say. Rossi in particular is the pride and joy of his Italian home town, where cardboard cut-outs bearing his image appear in doorways, on shop fronts and on billboards. Growing up, his racing made him “the despair of the police”, the locals tell us with evident delight. (In Italian, the term for motorcycle rider is “centauro”, literally centaur, those mythical part-human, part-horse creatures, which shows the great esteem in which they are held.)
Bike enthusiast Ewan McGregor narrates a potted history of the sport, explaining the relevance of Rossi’s numerous wins and later losses, and the high stakes played by all the riders. The race footage of crashes and smashes is eye-bulging stuff, as you’d expect in a film about this sport, and you’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat for much of it. It is also poignant seeing the recently killed Marco Simonelli speaking so brightly of a future in the game.
Although not completely personality-driven, the film allows for a fascinating insight into a rider’s motivation for leaving a winning team to join the competition (it’s not just about the money) and his commitment to winning at all costs. Fastest is enormously entertaining and thrilling, and safer experienced in the cinema than trying it at home