When’s it out?

Senna is released on DVD and Blu-Ray on Monday 10th October 2011.

Who’s in it?

Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Jean-Marie Balestre, Ron Dennis, Viviane Senna.

What’s it about?

It’s a documentary about the legendary Brazilian Formula One maestro Ayrton Senna. It pays special attention to his tumultuous relationship with his closest rival Alain Prost, as well as the intense political wranglings that plagued the sport during the latter half of his career. A few of those altercations resulted in fundamental technological changes to F1 machinery, some of which may have inadvertently led to his death.

What’s it like?

A biopic that also works extremely well as an edge-of-your-seat thriller.

Star of the show?

No contest. Ayrton Senna was a true original; a charismatic and uncommonly modest soul who existed in a field in which neither characteristic is in especially rich supply. If you’re unfamiliar with the man, his oft-touted cachet as one of the finest competitive racing drivers of all time will seem a lot less hyperbolic once you’ve seen the film. But as well as being floored by the man’s talent, you’ll also marvel at his wise, chivalrous disposition. Off the track, he was always fighting against something; whether it was lambasting the lack of clarity in the sport’s (often idiotic) behind-the-scenes decision making, or butting heads with his most formidable opponent.

Biggest surprise?

That it works so well as a film. Senna is an unconventional piece of work – it’s comprised entirely of library footage – and it’s an editing masterclass; effortlessly juggling audio interviews from the past and present with the on-camera material, some of which is subtitled. It has a gripping plot, an engaging and alluring hero and at least two moderately detestable villains. And like Apollo 13, you’re likely to become so wrapped up in the film that you’ll forget that you probably already know how it ends.

Best bit?

The famous Prost/Senna collision that took place during the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix – at the start of the chicane on the 46th lap – is structured like a classic action movie set-piece, and is quite unbelievably exciting.

Verdict

As a portrait of a deeply unusual public personality, Senna is outstanding. Mining hundreds of hours of footage and whittling it down to create a taut 100 minute movie can’t have been easy, and neither can making it fit into a traditional three-act structure so perfectly. But its biggest success is that it works for absolutely everybody. Whether you’re male or female, have a healthy interest in F1 or none at all, Senna is an absolute must-see; and perhaps the outright finest documentary to appear on the big screen since Capturing the Friedmans.

Hit or miss?

A monster hit, and a huge financial success to boot; Senna is now the highest-grossing UK documentary of all time.

Senna is due for release on DVD and Blu-Ray on Monday, October 10th 2011.

Watch the Senna trailer below:

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