Only the second and last driver to win a Formula One Grand Prix with his name on the bonnet, Bruce McLaren’s formidable legacy gets a fairly laudable treatment in Roger Donaldson’s new documentary.
No stranger to Kiwis travelling to the other side of the world and performing enviable feats of endurance, having directed Sir Anthony Hopkins as Burt Munro in the thoroughly charming The World’s Fastest Indian, here Donaldson is clearly intent on paying extended tribute to the household name and champion who, during his illustrious racing career, also founded one of the most sought-after brands in the world of motorsports.
Adopting a combination of archival footage of the man himself, his triumphs, modern-day re-enactments and interviews, notably with the interviewees directly face-to-camera, Donaldson has an evident depth of interest in his subject, mirrored by millions of fans all over the world, here giving way to a sparingly critical investigation more engaged with the man’s iconic status than so many of the intricacies and complications, still touched upon, that would have gone into each and every well-known outing on the track.
A celebration of McLaren’s legacy more than anything else, the examination of individual competitions and hurdles, if often thrilling and informative for even those less engaged in the sport, are often as abrupt as some of the treatments of his very current and lasting impact on the industry, an entertaining graphic to this end rounding out the film all too fleetingly and emblematic of what the picture might have been had its creatives not centred all too readily on compelling yet not dissimilar retellings of key events.
A focus on McLaren’s early years proving among the film’s best moments, the palpable passion the filmmakers have for the figure and his craft, no doubt emulated among many likely viewers, may have the already enamoured still queuing up for what will prove less engaging watching for the uninitiated or those not as familiar with the very high achiever.
McLaren is screening at the Sydney Film Festival