One Man, One Machine, One Uncomplicated Approach to Life
Whilst "The World's Fastest Indian" is the story of Kiwi Bob Munro who's obsession and determination lead him to set various land speed records on a bike that he adapted himself in his shed in Invercargill, it is in fact much more than a movie about speed. In fact this is the story of a man whose honest approach to living, his friendliness and determined spirit made him popular where ever he went. And it is this side of "The World's Fastest Indian", the way he made friends where ever he went and tackled what ever problem when it arose which makes "The World's Fastest Indian" such a pleasant and entertaining movie.
For 25 years Bob Munro (Anthony Hopkins - The Grinch) has been building his speed bike in his shed and home in the small New Zealand town of Invercargill, annoying his neighbours with his eccentricity and early morning work. But when he learns that he has a heart condition he raises the money, with the help of his friends to head to America and the Bonneville Salt Flats where he wants to run his bike in the speed trials. Along the way he makes friends where ever he goes with his uncomplicated approach to life and whilst his bike is not up to the safety standards expected by the officials at Bonneville his determination and kindness helps win them over. Now after 25 years of building his bike will Bob achieve his dream or die in the process.
I doubt I am alone when I say that prior to watching "The World's Fastest Indian" I had never heard of Bob Munro, I didn't know about the records he set or the fact he did so in such an extraordinary manner. As such this story which is basically a composite of Munro's life is very interesting. From his life in Invercargill where he lives in little more than a shed and makes the parts for the bike himself through to the extraordinary journey to America and the Bonneville Salt Flats for the first time. It's not the most dramatic of life stories although we do learn about his heart condition and on his first journey to America nearly didn't get to race but it is both interesting and entertaining.
But whilst we get this story of Bob who is doggedly determined to race his bike at Bonneville in many ways the story is less about that and about the man himself. And what I mean by that is how where ever Bob went he made friends even in what looks like dodgy situations. You just have to smile when he books into a motel and is seen to by a cross dresser and you smile even more when he discovers the truth and it doesn't bother him. It's the same when he goes to buy a car, ends up in trouble with the police or walks into a rough looking bar as it is his kindly spirit and uncomplicated approach to life which makes for so much entertainment.
Of course this story does build up to Bob reaching Bonneville and you not only get the semi drama of whether he will be allowed to race but also the danger of him racing. And as such we get a great mix because we see Bob's infectious good spirit winning people over whilst we also get the excitement as he takes his dangerous bike onto the salt plains. And you have to say that Roger Donaldson does a great job of making this thrilling especially for those like me who didn't know much about Bob Munro before watching "The World's Fastest Indian", you don't know whether he will live or die trying to set the land speed record as the bike vibrates in the speed and his leg starts to smoke from the hot exhaust.
Because "The World's Fastest Indian" is more about Bob Munro as a man rather than just being his record attempts much of the success of the movie rests on Anthony Hopkins shoulders. And whilst I would never say that this was Hopkins finest performance he does deliver the heart of this character, the eccentricities whilst also his kindness making him this daring grandfather figure which you can't but help love.
What this all boils down to is that "The World's Fastest Indian" is a very pleasant movie and in some ways quite special because whilst we do get the entertainment of Bob trying to make it to America to race his homemade bike we also get to see the spirit of the man and how his simple approach to life made him friends where ever he went.