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Film Review: McLaren


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Bruce McLaren has a legacy unrivalled in Formula One: engineer, race winner and team owner of one of the most recognised motoring manufacturers in the world.

McLaren’s death during a test at Goodwood in June 1970 brought his life to a premature close, with many younger fans now unaware of the impact the Kiwi had on the sport and the team that bears his name. Until now.

Roger Donaldson’s motion picture, McLaren, which launches in cinema’s on Thursday May 25th, offers Formula One and motor sport enthusiasts a ninety-minute rollercoaster ride through the life, achievements, and legacy of one of the sport’s finest.

Threading together a combination of archive material, newly shot footage, and interviews with those at the centre of McLaren’s life, Donaldson’s film feels like a scrapbook detailing the Kiwi’s prominent rise from a humble single-seater racer in New Zealand, to the chairman of a motor sport conglomerate, a team which has gone on to successes in Formula One, Can-Am and the Indy 500 to name but a few.

Beginning with the tale of McLaren’s early foot illness – which saw him bed ridden in early life with one leg shorter than the other – the tale moves swiftly forward to race victories in New Zealand and a scholarship to drive for the Cooper team in England.

The movie portrays from an early stage that McLaren was different to those around him and even more so when compared to modern racers today.

The Kiwi’s down to earth charm and hard-work to be the best in the sport motivated himself to establish his own team in 1963. His belief in the team offering motivation and inspiration to his colleagues and friends which speak so fondly of him through the production.

McLaren was someone who loved getting his hands dirty with his engineers just as much as driving the machines on circuit. He was a pioneer, a visionary, and someone who clearly had a natural gift for life in the fast lane.

The documentary caters well for die-hard Formula One fans, encompassing everything required from a well-researched television film about the life of a man of McLaren’s calibre.

Although this is where the appeal ends.

Sports fans will find interest but its unlikely Donaldson’s production will the widespread appeal seen with Senna (Asif Kapadia) or Rush (Ron Howard) and instead echoes the kind of documentary seen in 1: Life on the Limit (Michael Fassbender) or Hunt V Lauda: F1’s Greatest Racing Rivals (Matthew Whiteman)

It is a television documentary for Formula One fans played out on the big screen.

Although, for those passionate about motor sport, this will not deter from what the movie offers. It is a heart-warming, educational documentary about the life of a man who measured his in achievements, not time alone.

A class act for sports fans but others would want to stay away.

Image Credit - Jim Culp, Flickr Commons.

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