'The World's Fastest Indian' (2006) Movie Review, Starring Award-Winning Anthony Hopkins
This is a heartwarming, adventure movie that entertains everyone, especially seasoned Hopkins fans and boys who like motorbikes and speed. Written and directed by Roger Donaldson, with whom Hopkins had worked on 'The Bounty.' Based on the true life story of Burt Munro who achieved his life long ambition of setting the world land-speed record on his Indian motorcycle in 1967. Munro hit over 200mph with a motorcycle of less than 1000cc!
Set in the 1960s in Invercargill, a small town in new Zealand, the movie has a charming feel of a bygone era. Ironically, this film moves along rather slowly for one associated with speed, but its' leisurely pace gives us time to enjoy one of Anthony Hopkins' finest performances. The film gains momentum right through to its' triumphant conclusion.
Anthony Hopkins plays down at heel Burt Munro, a cantankerous old man, with greasy hair, engine oil under his fingernails and a convincing Kiwi accent – far removed from the usual polished Hopkins characters. his performance is well-rounded, portraying Burt's warmth, and friendliness with precision. Munro is known in his small town for his obsession with his old Indian motorcycle, the fastest in new Zealand and to the annoyance of his neighbours revs his engine at dawn most mornings.
The movie tells the story of the journey Burt made to achieve his amazing dream late in life. after many modifications to the old 1920s Indian motorcycle, each time pushing it go faster, Burt finally decides, following a bad turn with his heart, to go to Bonneville, Salt Flats in Utah, the site where the world land-speed record is held. He has to mortgage his house to the bank to fund his trip to the States, and build his own trailer to transport the Indian once off the ship. there are plenty of nuts-and-bolts references to satisfy those interested in racing and the movie features some funny moments, such as when Munro makes his own pistons and then brews tea from the cooling-barrel water!
Munro meets various characters along the way, Tina (Chris Williams) a transvestite motel receptionist who is so endeared by Burt's charm and open friendliness that she helps him hire a car cheaply, Fernando (Paul Rodriguez) a used car salesman, who lets Burt work on his trailer in his workshop, Ada (Diane Ladd) a lonely widow who becomes his lover, a native Indian and an Air Force pilot on leave from Vietnam. all these people help him get to Utah when all the odds seem against that happening, as Burt comes up against all sorts of problems. The characters in the support roles keep the movie fresh and inject some humorous moments into the film.
The location filming at the Salt Flats, Bonneville is superb and the speed racing shots are stunning. However, Burt is there but there are yet more hurdles for him to overcome. The officials are not impressed that Munro has not even registered himself to compete and even less impressed with his creaking, spluttering old motorcycle with makeshift bald tyres and no proper brakes. The judges have safety issues with Munro's attire – lack of protection against fire, the bureaucracy is endless and there is considerable doubt as to whether he will be allowed to enter the competition. But Burt wouldn't take no for an answer and through his charm and engaging friendliness with the other competitors; Burt wins everyone over and is allowed to qualify for entry. throughout this part of the film you can feel yourself rooting for Burt Munro and his dream – it's one of those salt of the earth stories, made even more poignant as it is based on a real life story and legend.
The finale is triumphant, reaching over 200mph on his old Indian motorcycle, despite severe burns to his leg from the exhaust. yet his goal has been achieved of setting the world land-speed record.
A real feel-good, inspiring movie, with brilliant acting and directing. enjoy the ride!
One of the best books about the true story are 'Legend of Speed: The Burt Munro Story', by Tim Hanna and if you want to know more about the legendary Indian motorcycles, an excellent recommended read is 'Indian Motorcycles' by noted Indian historian Jerry Hatfield, with more than 125 specially commissioned photographs and 25 black and white historical pictures, capturing the seductive power and grace of the great models-the Scout, Chief, and four, -and recreating the thrill the Indian generates to this day.