This is one for motorbike fans if ever there was one, although it also attempts to sell the excitement of MotoGP to those who may not have thought about watching people on two-wheeled machines whizzing around a track. Director Mark Neale got exclusive access to both the races and drivers in 2010 and 2011, getting incredible footage both on the track and off.
While I have to admit I not really a petrol-head, Neale’s documentary is pretty absorbing and does a great job of showing what an exciting and potentially dangerous sport MotoGP can be. The drivers seem to spend half their time sliding across the tarmac and gravel when their bike falls for one reason or another, and it’s a miracle there are so few injuries.
While Ewan McGregor’s narration varies between the informative and annoyingly overblown (occasionally slipping into the ridiculous), the footage and stories speak for themselves. The main focus is Valentino Rossi, who’s undoubtedly one of the greatest motorbike racers ever, has seven world championships under his belt and is chasing after his eighth. However he’s getting old (for racing at least) and has to face upstart younger racers who start to sense that after years of Rossi dominating the sport, he may now have weaknesses, especially after a massive crash.
With interviews with Rossi and other drivers, as well as trips to the village Valentino grew up in, chats with experts and of course masses of on-track footage – much if it from innovative angles – it’s a surprisingly entertaining watch. There’s almost a defiance about it, with the filmmakers shouting at the audience, “Why aren’t more people watching this, it’s great!” That said, you are getting the highlights, and watching people going round and round the track for hours may not be as interesting as when it’s condensed down to a couple of hours, as it is here.
What Fastest also does a good job of is stripping off the leathers to look at the men on the bikes. You have to be slightly mental (or more charitably, daredevil-ish) to take up motorcycle racing, and the film questions what it is that keeps them going. It also shows the pressures they face, both from the expectations of fans, crowds and their team, as well as the more personal demons they face knowing that every race could bring serious injury or even death. As Fastest shows, it causes some people to completely break down and/or have to walk away from the sport.
On Blu-ray the picture quality is great, with bright, colourful images of the races (particularly showing off Valentino Rossi’s love of dayglo yellow), with little strobing and good clarity. Some of the older footage that spliced in of course isn’t as great, but everything shot specifically for this documentary is very good. Likewise the sound is immersive, really giving you a good sense of the roar of the engines.
The features are largely a selection of deleted scenes, featuring interviews and footage that didn’t make it to the final cut, and with much of it there’s good reason it was chopped out as it doesn’t add much.
Overall Verdict: Although it’s undoubtedly going to be of most interest to motorbike fans, Fastest is great advertisement for both the fast-paced sport itself, as well as the daredevil riders who race around the track at ridiculous speed.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac