Movie Review – Senna – A Must See

Menomonee Falls, WI (October 15, 2010) – columnists, Eddie LePine and Steve Zautke both saw the documentary “Senna” over the last several days. Here is their review.

Eddie- I was able to finally see the Senna movie at a little cozy theater in Maitland Florida. I would guess there were about 20 people in the theatre. Prior to the showing, I was able to talk to several attendees. A few of the people really did not know much about Ayrton Senna, but for me, I had the opportunity to meet him and watch him race in Detroit and Montreal back in mid-1980’s. I was looking forward to this chance to see it on the big screen.

Steve – My wife Susan and I went to the Downer Theatre on Milwaukee’s fashionable East-side. The 1920’s era theatre provided an intimate setting and was perfect for seeing this much anticipated documentary. A fan of Formula One (F1) most of my life, after the death of my favorite drivers, Mark Donohue in 1975, Patrick Depallier in 1980 and Gilles Villeneuve in 1982, I was hesitant to became any driver’s fan (F1) in the mid-1980’s. I admired the gifted Brazilian from a distance.

Eddie – Seeing him race the streets of Detroit was amazing. It was an era that was incredible to witness. The F1 Turbo era saw engines pushing over 1000 horsepower, tires that were only good for two laps. Cars had none of the electronics they have now on the cars and drivers were really tested. No paddle shifters, no rev limiters, real racing.

Steve – This was an exciting era for me. I loved the looks of the 1980’s Formula One car. The McLaren and Brabhams were beautiful to behold, even the ungainly Toleman that launched Senna’s career in 1984 was admired by this writer.

Eddie – In the movie, Senna, we see pure racing and that’s what he said about karting, it was “pure racing.” The movie studies Senna entry onto the European racing karting scene in 1978. The movie was really done well and the footage they had and the way they presented it was perfect. It showed the behind the scenes of what really went on with Senna from his start in F1. We see him in the Toleman at the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix and how the field and the race was stopped because of the rain and how he could had won the race.

Steve – The movie really puts the movie onlooker in the driver’s seat. With the large theatre screen, you ride with Senna at Monaco and watch breathlessly has he’s whizzing by Armco barriers at 140-mph. You really get the sensation of speed. You also see how Senna understands the politics of Formula One. At Monaco in ’84, he’s gaining on the leader, Alain Prost who’s presented as the villain or rival in the film. With short amount of laps to go the race is called with Prost the winner. Senna is disappointed but shrugs it off, knowing he was the better driver, a scene replayed over and over in the film.

Eddie – Producer, James Gay-Rees had been inspired by stories his father told of Senna from a young age when he was working for John Player, the tobacco company that sponsored Senna’s sleek black Lotus in 1985, and got to know him. “My dad would come back from these various races and say that there was something really ‘other’ about this young guy. ‘He was very unusual. He was not like the other young motor racing drivers. He was very sure of himself. He has very strong beliefs. He was very different and very intense.’ And so began his journey towards making a documentary on the legendary racing driver.” After seeing the movie I still cannot believe that F1 ‘czar’ Bernie Eccelstone agreed to cooperate with the directors and producers of this film. It shows a side of F1 no one gets to see.

Steve – The movie presents Senna in many candid moments. While you’re watching the film, you’re transformed back to 1985, 1989, etc. For those 90-plus minutes, Ayrton Senna is alive and you’re reliving his life story. The drama of being a race car driver, the politics of modern Formula One and one side that many Americans aren’t aware, Senna the rock star. You get a front row seat as thousands of fans are clamoring to get a glimpse of the driver whether it’s in Sao Paulo, Tokyo or Europe. You’re a fly on the wall as Senna clashes with FISA head, Jean-Marie Balestre regarding political clashes within the sport. You also see his private life, his family, his girlfriends and more.

Eddie – This movie really put me back when I was able to see one of the greatest drivers of all time race on the tight circuit at Detroit. He was a big influence on me, after I won my Karting championships and moved into a race car in the early 1990’s, I painted my helmet like Senna’s, with the colors of the Brazil’s flag. I really enjoyed it. This movie is a must see.

Steve – This movie has several moments and glimpse that fans may have not seen before. The movie shows pressures of a modern race car driver, and the dangers that were lurking around F1 in 1994. It also illustrates how all those forces came together that fateful weekend at San Marino and how they pushed F1 towards the safety mandates seen today. It is as one reviewer wrote, “The best movie you never heard of.” You don’t have to be a race fan to enjoy this film.

Directed by Asif Kapadia
Produced by Tim Bevan / Eric Fellner / James Gay-Rees
Written by Manish Pandey
Starring Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Frank Williams, Ron Dennis
Music by Antonio Pinto / John Powell
Cinematography Jake Polonsky
Editing by Chris King / Gregers Sall
Studio – ESPN Films, Midfield Films, Working Title Films
Distributed by Universal Pictures / Walt Disney Pictures

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