Senna was as inspirational and powerful as its subject matter. Using archive footage and commentary from numerous sources, Senna is a documentary which tells the triumphant and tragic story of famed Brazilian race car driver Ayrton Senna de Silva. The movie is brilliant and beautiful as it weaves through various aspects of Senna’s life while entertaining the audience with Formula 1 races and glimpses of a lifestyle few know. Even if you’re not familiar with Senna’s story, this film quickly brings you into the prestigious world of racing and the not so exposed world of a race car driver.

Senna’s story is magnificent. He was a determined kid who knew he wanted to be a race car driver from an early age. The movie begins showing him racing go karts and announcing his entry into F1 racing alongside his parents. The movie denoted that he came from a privileged family who supported him but exclaimed that he had to “work his way into Formula 1 by virtue of his talents.” The documentary treated him almost as a saint who was beloved by his Brazilian people, humbly cared for others especially children, looked out for the safety of his fellow drivers and believed in his God. The doc also dabbled into his very dangerous racing habits and sprinkled relationship with women but for the most part, showed him in a very good light. It highlighted on his obsession with racing with quotes such as, “like a drug, so serious and intense, you keep searching for that feeling” and, “I can’t quit.”

Whether you’re a fan of Formula 1 racing or not, this documentary is gripping! It will make you a fan, if only for one and a half hours. Each race was depicted so well making you focus in on Senna as he took the course by storm and interacted with other drivers. Even when you knew the outcome of some of the races, you still sat at the edge of your seat wondering what was going to happen. Especially in the last race where the inevitable was creeping up…the director, Asif Kapadia, stretched it out so tensely that your heart nearly sinks as you watch the same view as Senna to the very end. It’s incredibly emotional. The movie plays like a sports channel recap showing replays of races and off-track interviews. There were no current day sit down shots, just commentary over archive footage. Nobody took the attention off of the star.

Another highlight of this film was the score. Music doesn’t typically stand out in documentaries but in Senna, it did. Maybe it’s because Senna was Brazilian and samba is a huge portion of that country’s DNA, but the music played incredibly well in the movie. It didn’t take over or deter what was happening on screen, but it contributed to the entertainment value. Aside from the background music, the sound alone was superb as you could hear the engines revving and tires screech. Any racing fan will be pleased. Even fans of Nascar’s “Crank It Up” segments. For the movie, they set up Alain Prost as the villain in the story as he tended to be in real life (if you were a Senna fan). Even so, they showed his personality and gave him a heart as they plotted him against Senna and showed him in a negative light.

Be prepared to read a lot. As are Formula 1 fans, most of Senna’s audience will be international. Most of the commentators and interviews with Senna are not in English so there are plenty of subtitles. Having said that, the pace of the speech and amount of time the lines are on screen are perfect to follow along with. This has quickly become one of my favorite documentaries and favorite sports films of the year. It has such passion and integrity as it quickly presents a well-structured story. You are certain to tear up as you feel the emotion of the Brazilian people from their hardships to great pride. As with Senna’s life, the documentary was too short (it was so good, I just wanted more!) but it didn’t have a single dull moment…even the credits kept you in your seat.

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