The World's Fastest Indian (2005) / Drama-Adventure

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language, drug use, and a sexual reference
Running Time: 127 min.

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Aaron Murphy, Annie Whittle, Chris Williams, Christopher Lawford, Paul Rodriguez, Jessica Cauffiel, Saginaw Grant, Diane Ladd, Bruce Greenwood
Director: Roger Donaldson

Screenplay: Roger Donaldson
Review published March 7, 2006

A feel-good movie in a positive way, The World's Fastest Indian might go through predictable motions in telling this true story, but it does manage to keep the interest going at full speed.  Perhaps even more impressive than the story of how Burt Munro became the land speed record holder is the impressive character portrayal turned in by Anthony Hopkins (Proof, Red Dragon), perhaps one of the best in his distinguished career. 

In his heyday, New Zealander (aka Kiwi) Burt Munro was an eccentric old man with a need for speed.  He could often be found in his garage modding up his 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle, always going for that little something extra to make it run just a little bit faster.  His means are uncouth, but so are his manners, and while he drives his neighbors crazy, he is also inspirational to all of those that come to know him.  He dreams of one day making it to America to race his cycle in the world's fastest and flattest arena for speed, Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats.  With some money saved up, he gets his wish, although he is a fish out of water when it comes to the faster moving United States way of life.  With barely a penny to his name and not a friend in sight, he mist find a way, any way, to get to the Salt Flats and fulfill his dream of breaking the world record for speed.

The World's Fastest Indian is a delightfully charming movie about never giving up on one's dreams, no matter how crazy everyone thinks you may be.  It also expounds on the virtues of never being too old to realize them, as Burt is willing to give up everything he holds dear, including his life, in order to conquer what he had built his whole existence around.  It's a remarkable story, one very personal to writer-director Roger Donaldson (The Recruit, Thirteen Days), a lifelong fan of Munro's, and told with a good deal of nostalgia and affection.

Obviously, there are some liberties taken in the story, particularly in its portrayal of the wild and wacky Hollywood lifestyle, which can at times be very reminiscent of Crocodile Dundee in its brand of humor.  Most of the people Burt meets along the way stem from an over-imaginative imagination, but such larger-than-life characters are completely in keeping with the kind of tall tale this weird and wonderful odyssey plays out as. 

The World's Fastest Indian unabashedly tries to get on your good side with its easygoing tempo and some corny attempts at humor, but Hopkins is so charismatic in his approach, whatever he tries to sell, we'll certainly buy.  With a warm heart and cheery smile approach, it's easy for us as viewers to just give in to the moment, ignoring the shop-worn clichés, allowing Munro to take us along on his quixotic journey into the middle of nowhere, redemptively making something out of himself after a lifetime of seemingly having nothing to show for it.  Like any race, we all know where it ends, but The World's Fastest Indian crosses the finish with energy to spare.

Qwipster's rating:

©2006 Vince Leo