MFR Rating: ★ ★ ★
Always the acid test of any documentary is whether someone without prior interest in the subject can enjoy the film. As an avid sports fan without that passion stretching to Formula One, I was curious to see whether Senna could keep my attention having heard from many non-motor racing fans that it does just that.
It succeeds to an extent. The documentary only offers cursory exploration of Ayrton Senna’s early life and focuses almost entirely on his short, professional career as a Formula One driver. The film offers no narration or talking heads but simply relies on archive footage and interviews, certainly an ambitious way to present a documentary although it’s done so effortlessly that you barely realize.
I have to admit, as someone without any interest in F1 it didn’t completely keep my interest as I had to really rack my brain to make sense of some of the racing procedures, whilst never really seeing Senna as quite as compelling a character I had expected. His rivalry with Alain Prost is explored nicely and he certainly appeared to be very talented but I never felt the film quite tapped into his bravery or what made him so much more audacious than most, or the morality of his daring and dangerous style. It’s undoubtedly well made and I did feel I learned about a sportsman I previously had no real knowledge, but it didn’t quite have the depth of the best motor racing documentary nor the best sport’s documentary of the year, but still stole my interest more than any Gran Prix.
Senna is out now in the UK and out on 12 August in the USA (limited release). Running time: 105 mins. Certificate 12A (UK).
Review by David Rank