Having spent years custom-building a classic 1920 Indian motorcycle, New Zealand amateur engineer Burt Munro (Hopkins) makes a round-the-world voyage to Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, where in 1967 — against all odds — the eccentric old coot sets the world land-speed record.
This ‘prestige picture’ has ‘Oscar hopeful’ written all over it. A biopic with an inspiring true story, handsomely dressed with period-setting detail, and sporting a grandstanding, highly mannered performance from Anthony Hopkins, The World’s Fastest Indian is definitely Academy-friendly material.
But while supposedly Oscar-worthy films can often be far too worthy in the pejorative sense, New Zealand-based writer-director Roger Donaldson’s film is an appealing labour of love. Donaldson, an Australian who moved to Kiwi-land when he was 20 years old, just two years before Munro set his land-speed record and became a national hero, has imbued his film with a winning streak of optimism. That optimism partly arises from the type of man Munro was, a never-say-die, good-natured kind of fella. Beyond that, however, Donaldson has plotted an unflaggingly positive turn of events — something largely out of fashion in cinema in our cynical modern age — which time and again he uses to cleverly wrong-foot the viewer.
For example, en route to the Bonneville Salt Flats, Munro loses a wheel from the trailer carrying his bike and is stranded on an empty California desert highway. Limping his vehicle to the nearest sign of life, he chances upon the homestead of a lonely widow (played by Diane Ladd) and there fixes up the missing wheel, survives an encounter with a rattlesnake and shacks up with the gorgeous old broad. Out of context, this might all sound unconvincing, but used repeatedly, such plot ploys prove swiftly enough to form an amusing and really quite cheeky conceit, one that works on the cine-literate viewer like a private joke.
It’s a conceit that never would have made it across the starting line, of course, were it not for Hopkins’ sterling central performance. As mannered an impersonation of Munro as his is, Hopkins remains on just about the right side of caricature (apparently Tony had Burt’s surviving relatives bawling during a set visit). From that precise performance to Donaldson’s no-nonsense direction, The World’s Fastest Indian is an unashamedly old-fashioned film, a biopic that places its subject front and centre and tells its story with much gusto and great good humour.
A wonderfully uplifting and charming biopic that’s sure to win over all but the most mean-spirited. And the motorbike races really rocket, too.
Reviewed by Miles Fielder
What a great film.Hopkins has redeemed himself at last! I caught this film on the t.v half way through and stuck with it and got the d.v.d.,later.
What a great performance!Lovely hidden gem of a film that puts faith back in quality story telling.After a slow start in N.Z, (loved lemon tree and grass burning scenes)Burt embarks on a trek to the states to race his vintage Indian.Don`t have to be a biker or bike fan,
this is great feel good film and so good to see Hopkins at hes best,just a sligh... More
Posted by beeboy at 00:10, 21 January 2010 | Report This Post
Thanks to Anthony Hopkins' genial performance, it's a pleasant, old-fashioned enterprise that warms the cockles with its unashamedly feel-good homage to one man's twilight crusade.
Posted by moviemaniac2 at 17:07, 13 January 2007 | Report This Post
|Worlds Fastest Indian|
Absolutely amazing, being a motorbike fan and a fan of Hopkins I was dying to see this movie but it truly exceeded all my expectations. Its a great road movie, great bike movie, and just a great movie about people and characters. If you dont like this your heart is made of stone! ... More
Posted by jonnypatterson at 00:10, 22 August 2006 | Report This Post
|THE WORLD'S FASTEST INDIAN|
Blew me away. An impressive story about Burt Munro and his amazing bike. Although, I felt a bit insulted at his accent (he soundes a mix of scottish and Australian), but that didn't get in the way of the marvellous story. ... More
Posted by J.M.N. at 20:43, 05 May 2006 | Report This Post
|world's fastest indian|
Enjoyed this movie very much. ... More
Posted by robfabb at 05:14, 13 March 2006 | Report This Post
|Captures the essence of riding a bike at speed...|
Great film. Slightly slow start but picks up speed as it goes along, rather like the bike itself. Fundamentally an optimistic film - even when the expected bad guys show up they're really OK. Nice change from the gloom and angst of most serious films. Realistic and uplifting - and you'll be cheering Burt on through some frightening stuff - just like everyone who was there on the day! ... More
Posted by The Voice of Fate at 09:40, 12 March 2006 | Report This Post
| RE: World’s Fastest Indian, The|
1967. Burt Munro (Anthony Hopkins) has a dream. To race his bike at the speed trials at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats. For twenty years he has painstakenly rebuilt his 1920 Indian, living in a shed and annoying the neighbours with his early morning work effics.
The opportunity comes and an incredible journey begins, from the small town in New Zealand where he lives, to the bright lights of Hollywood and the dusty backroads of America. Along the way meeting a collection of colourful charact... More
Posted by wrenster at 11:20, 02 March 2006 | Report This Post
| RE: World’s Fastest Indian, The|
When I saw the title I was intrigued.......was it about an athlete, a curry eating contest.....what?
But it sounds an interesting film and with Anthony Hopkins in, it should be good. ... More
Posted by Catmint at 09:28, 02 March 2006 | Report This Post