World’s Fastest Indian

Year: 2006
Director: Roger Donaldson
Writer: Roger Donaldson
Cast: Anthony Hopkins
As a young director, Donaldson worked on a doco he never forgot about an eccentric old man determined to take his beaten up motorcycle to the US and break the land speed record with it.

After a few decades in a Phillip Noyce/Lee Tamahori-like tour of duty as a Hollywood action thriller director, he returned home to tell the story of Burt Munro more fully, and World's Fastest Indian is to Donaldson what Rabbit Proof Fence was to Noyce; his personal, coming home film.

Now, creative control works both ways. Just like a few studio script meetings might have spared us the horror of Jar Jar Binks, similar development might have given World's Fastest Indian a bit more flow.

There's a lot of flab in the first half, almost as if Donaldson didn't have enough story to fill the running time. After Burt prepares and sets off from New Zealand, the movie comprises a series of unrelated vignettes about the characters he meets along the way and doesn't really take off until he arrives at the competing ground in Utah. The movie seems more interested in showing us the quirky side of the American heartland in the 1950s than telling Burt's story.

The second problem is that Donaldson has forgotten conflict is the basis of all drama. Every person Burt meets and every adventure he has is upbeat, happy, positive and helpful. There are few obstacles and little dramatic tension.

But Munro's an inspiring and irrepressible character and Hopkins breathes life into him with humour, dignity and childlike hope, and he's impossible not to like.

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