For 25 years in Invercargill at the south end of New Zealand, Burt Munro (1899-1978) has been working on increasing the speed of his motorcycle, a 1920 Indian. He dreams of taking it to the Bonneville Salt Flats to see how fast it will go. By the early 1960s, heart disease threatens his life, so he mortgages his house and takes a boat to Los Angeles, buys an old car, builds a makeshift trailer, gets the Indian through customs, and heads for Utah. Along the way, people he meets are charmed by his open, direct friendliness. If he makes it to Bonneville, will they let an old guy on the flats with makeshift tires, no brakes, and no chute? And will the Indian actually respond? Written by
Seeing the movie "The World's Fastest Indian" reminded me why I go see movies. I average about one every two weeks, and this was one of those rare movies that actually made me feel *happy* afterward.
The main character, New Zealander Bill Munroe as played by Anthony Hopkins, is a true man's man. He has spent his entire adult life tinkering with his streamlined motorcycle, a 1920 Indian (hence the title.) Now in his 60's in the year 1963, he wants to realize his life's dream of taking it halfway around the world to the Bonneville Salt Flats Test Track in Utah, the only place where he can find out how fast it will actually go.
The movie pulls off two often-used themes, The Long Journey and Overcoming Adversity, without a hint of phoniness or melodrama. The Long Journey from New Zealand to Utah takes up most of the movie, with Munroe scrounging up travel money, working off part of his passage on a dilapidated freighter, and the long, event-filled drive from the California coast to Utah in an old used car. Overcoming Adversity is portrayed in two ways: by Munroe's awesome mechanical genius as shown by his ability to fashion spare parts out of almost anything and to improvise a la MacGyver, and in his charm and likability when confronted with more human obstacles. Indeed, one of the movie's chief strengths was the character's ability to make friends easily under any situation, with a cast of colorful supporting characters who wonderfully complemented Hopkins' acting.
After finally reaching the test track, the movie's focus shifts from the acting to the cinematography and drama. The dozens of colorful cars, motorcycles, and drivers' outfits contrast strikingly with the blinding white of the salt flats and the mountainous backdrop. And when Munroe finally gets the chance to make his test run, two questions come to mind. How fast can he go? More importantly, will the 64-year-old man and the 43-year-old patched-up bike hold together under the strain?
After seeing the movie and while still in my euphoric state, my skeptical mind wondered how much of it was actually true. I did a little research, and the portrayal of this amazing man seems to be true enough. Go see this movie; if you do, you'll leave the theater feeling good, and perhaps even a little inspired.
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