Review: Senna

Senna is an incredibly difficult film to review. First and foremost the source material for Senna is incredibly niche as essentially, it’s a film about the life of a Formula 1 driver. Especially at it is rare to see a film about such a sport as it’s not nearly as popular as Football. Secondly, as a documentary, some of the avenues about a film you can explore have been cut off. However, don’t let either of those points put you off seeing this film, as Senna is one of the most fascinating documentaries since An Inconvenient Truth.

Senna tells the life and times of one of Formula 1’s most influential drivers, Aryton Senna. Through a stream of documentary footage, Director Asif Kapadia gives us an insight into the life and ultimate premature death of one of F1’s most important drivers.

Where Kapadia succeeds massively is by making what could have easily been an incredibly boring documentary, incredibly interesting. The use of back catalog footage of his races and the aspects of his more private life means that everything feels that much more real. Kapadia strings it together in such a manner meaning that getting bored isn’t an option. The film flourishes and becomes a weird hybrid between poignant documentary and drama. It is an incredibly refreshing approach to a source material that could have been a disaster if not handled with such care.

Aryton Senna as a person is portrayed through Kapadia’s choice of footage as such an interesting, honest and humorous man that you can’t help but feel for him. The way that Kapadia portrays him doesn’t only emphasize his positive characteristics, but also shows his more negative characteristics meaning Aryton Senna becomes a remarkable figure, so well rounded it’s impossible to not care for him.

However, although ultimately Senna is about doing what ever you want and not letting anyone stand in your way, the source material at first is incredibly off putting. In fact, I’ve heard numerous people mention that they don’t want to see it because they’re not a fan of ‘F1’ racing and they feel as if it wouldn’t appeal to them. Such a niche source material meant that the opening 20 minutes for me were slightly daunting.

However, Senna is not only an excellent film, but a remarkable tale. It’s a film that if you persevere with, you’ll feel greatly rewarded by at the end of it. It is smart, funny and manages to spin F1 with interesting political elements. Don’t be put off by it, embrace it. Senna is a joy from start to finish.

Rating: 4.5/5

12A certificate

Review by LiveWire Young Film Critic, Jay Crosbie (June ’11)
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