Movie Review: Fastest

We’d planned to go for a ride on Sunday. At least, until we stepped outside and the air already felt warm and soggy at 9 am. I think F was surprised that my response to his “I’m sorry, but I really don’t think I want to go” wasn’t disappointment (after all, he gets to ride a lot more than I do) but rather, “Nope. Me neither.” The thought of being outside in all that gear made me wilt a bit. This was definitely a day to stay indoors. (And hey, bonus! We didn’t end up in a tornado!)

So that afternoon found us somewhere we never are during the day: on the couches in my living room in front of the TV. I’d gone on a bit of an interlibrary loan frenzy at work earlier in the week, and a DVD of a MotoGP documentary was the first thing to arrive. “Yeah, okay, let’s check out the first few minutes and see if it’s any good,” was F’s response when I showed him the case of Fastest.


Fifteen minutes later we were both shouting at the TV like we were in the stands watching Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo duking it out in an insane series of overtakes during the 2009 Catalunya Grand Prix. (By the way, there are versions of that video in English, but it’s pretty entertaining in Italian.)

Fastest then proceeded to keep up that level of intensity for the next hour and a half. It’s full of fantastic racing footage, including some really beautiful close-ups and slow motion shots, all set to a rocking soundtrack and narrated by Ewan McGregor (who apparently is enough of a motorcycle nut that he rode one around the world. Yes, I’ll definitely be giving that a watch and posting a review). It also managed to be a film with something for a variety of interest levels. While it certainly helped that I knew a bit about MotoGP going in, I think that someone who really didn’t know anything about the sport could also find the movie engaging and come away with a better understanding of racing. And on the other end of the spectrum, it definitely held the attention of the huge racing fan on my other couch who’s been following the sport for decades and often said throughout the movie, “Oh, yeah, I remember this race; I have this recorded and have watched it dozens of times.”

What Fastest isn’t, however, is a documentary about the history of MotoGP. In fact, it actually covers a very narrow slice of time, focusing primarily on the 2010 season. It turns out that the movie’s director, Mark Neale, churns out a MotoGP film every couple of years:

  • 2003: Faster
  • 2004: Faster & Faster (I’m sensing a theme here)
  • 2006: The Doctor, the Tornado and the Kentucky Kid
  • 2011: Fastest
  • Also in 2011, but not about MotoGP: Charge: Zero Emissions/Maximum Speed (about the introduction of an electric bike(!) to the races on the Isle of Man)
  • 2015: Hitting the Apex

I’m a bit curious to see if all of these movies develop a long-running arc, or if it just ends up feeling like same stuff, different year.

Mark Neale

Just can’t get enough of it, can you, Mark?

The other thing that Fastest isn’t is unbiased. About halfway through, it morphs from a film about MotoGP racing in general to one about Valentino Rossi. It’s understandable — The Doctor is a compelling figure, and 2010 is the year that he broke his leg in a practice session for the Mugello Grand Prix and made an incredible comeback mere weeks later, going on to place 3rd for the season after missing only 4 races. (Which, by the way, were the first races he missed in his career, ending his record of successive starts at 230. The guy deserves a gold star for attendance on his report card.) To a couple of Rossi fans, the shift in tone was fine, though it did make for a bit of a meandering route from the film’s start to finish. A diehard Lorenzo fan might have switched the movie off about two-thirds of the way through.

The part of the DVD where a total racing nut would really be able to get their geek on is the extras. I watched those Sunday evening after F went home, and there were incredibly in-depth interviews with engineers about the design and physics of racing bikes that I admit sailed right over my head. (Sorry you missed those, F!) However, it’s a pity the producers felt the need to balance that out with an interview with a Playboy Playmate of the Year who happened to be dating a French racer. (Really, guys?) Thankfully there was also pretty adorable footage of Rossi getting trounced at go-karting by his 13-year-old brother to make up for it.

Overall verdict:

thumbs up


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