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The World's Fastest Indian /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Lawford, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Rodriguez, Diane Ladd

Directed by: Roger Donaldson

Produced by: Roger Donaldson, Gary Hannam
Written by: Roger Donaldson
Distributor: Magnolia Films


Anthony Hopkins in Magnolia Pictures' The World's Fastest Indian
Anthony Hopkins in Magnolia Pictures' The World's Fastest Indian
Patrick Flueger and Anthony Hopkins in Magnolia Pictures' The World's Fastest Indian

    Most every story being put to film today has been put to film before: this is a gloomy fact. However, Anthony Hopkins’ dynamite performance in The World’s Fastest Indian as Burt Munro, an old-aged New Zealander who dreams of testing his bare-bones Indian Motorcycle on the Boneville Salt Flats, makes the statement seem far less unfortunate. This “Based on a True Story” is an old-fashioned, conventional tear-jerker in the purest sense, but it is so convincingly made that even the most cynical of viewers won’t have an ounce of trouble becoming involved in its story and characters.

     Roger Donaldson’s writing and direction serve as perfect representations of how to lovingly bring a clichéd tale to life. If professors were to require its viewing in film school, then perhaps moviegoers wouldn’t have to sit through as many poorly executed stories of this sort made by graduates who find themselves working in Hollywood with no apparent purpose. By merely taking a look at The World’s Fastest Indian’s synopsis before seeing it, any viewer would be able to guess that Burt gets together the money to venture from New Zealand to America, experiences his fair share of bumps in the road in getting to Utah once there, and eventually ends up successfully testing his motorcycle on the Salt Flats. However, when watching the film, no such predictions arose in my mind. I was so immersed in the engaging material that I never stopped to think about where it was headed; I was merely there to enjoy the ride.

     I say this all with only brief mention of just how good Anthony Hopkins is in the film; this is probably his best performance since that in 1997’s Amistad. Within merely five minutes of the film’s start, the actor finds the audience’s sympathies and runs with them. Whether Burt is cooling self-made pistons in his water-supply, burning his knee-high lawn in order to comply with neighborhood-policy, or being belittled by overpriced American cab drivers, Hopkins always has the audience entirely drawn into both his performance and the film as a whole.

     Critic Roger Ebert points something out worthy of notice: “Bonneville involves not racing but time trials.” This is certainly a distinguishing quality. When Burt heads out to race on the flats, he and his motorcycle speed over the barren land by themselves, but somehow the movie captures the illusion of speed and competition better than any racing film in recent memory. Sure, in the film’s first testing-scene, the viewer does get to see the normal cars following Burt bite his dust, but because of the audience’s belief in its protagonist, this is hardly a match from the start. Every time Burt mounts himself on his prized Indian and reaches for the gas, The World’s Fastest Indian exhilaratingly captures pure movie-magic.

     There’s something to be said about the fact that The World’s Fastest Indian is one of the few uplifting movies of late that works on its own terms. Because the audience commits their sympathies to Burt wholeheartedly, the film has no problem indulging in his personality and achievements. One might enter The World’s Fastest Indian with the preconception that its seemingly tried-and-true formula might void it of any thematic or emotional resonance, but they couldn’t be more wrong. It is a jolly, grin-provoking little movie.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews

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